The Cross-functional Team Advantage

I’ve been a baseball fan my entire life. I started playing the game when I was 5 or 6 years old – a little late by today’s standards. I’ve played on good teams and bad, but I’ve never seen a successful team with nine second basemen. That’s the analogy I use when I see teams that lack diversity – specifically functional diversity.

I encourage teams to ensure cross-functional diversity whenever possible. In our restaurants, many of the Operators have built their teams with Marketing, Operations, Hospitality, Training and other subject matter experts seated around their leadership table. Here are 5 reasons these teams have an advantage over other teams.
Deep Expertise – It’s not reasonable in today’s world to have everyone on the team know everything about everything. Most of the organizations we lead are too complex for that to be the case. However, it is extremely reasonable to ask someone to develop expertise in a specific area, function or discipline. This single factor makes cross-functional teams smarter than their counterparts who are less diverse.
Diverse Personalities – At the risk of stereotyping, the chances are good your marketing person will have a different personality from your finance person, and your operations person is probably different from both of them… this is good. These differences bring a richness to the conversation you’d not have otherwise. The outcome: better decisions and better results.
Multiple Perspectives – This is a derivative of the previous point and may be obvious. If the personality affects how the person sees the world, their discipline magnifies their perspective. Different perspectives forge new possibilities. George Kimble, the executive director of the Stanford D School said, “Innovation is found in the spaces between our disciplines.” You’ve got to put these different perspectives in the room to find the innovation!
Broad Experiences – I realize these may be sounding similar; they are, in fact, different facets of the same issue. Imagine people with different Expertise, Personalities and Perspectives - when you get all this, you get a wealth of different life experiences as well. These are the elements that fuel insight, creativity and innovation - the components that make a team great.
Different Passions – Although the list could go on, I’ll stop with this one. Men and women who bring the previous attributes to a team also bring their individual and different passions. This is huge for a team. Different passions, working together, create a more fully orbed view of the business. If you have a team comprised of only marketing people, the chances increase you’ll have trouble controlling costs. Likewise, a team of only operations people may have trouble growing the business.
Cross-functional teams are not guaranteed success. They must practice and master the same disciplines as other teams in order to win. However, they do have a distinct advantage over the team with nine second basemen.[GLS_Shield]


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