Organizations achieve greatness when people are allowed to do unexpected things – to show initiatives and creativity. To step outside the scripted path, that is when delightful, interesting and amazing results occur. By giving control and decreasing predictability you increase the probability of attaining extra ordinary results.
It is witnessed that many people become apprehensive when they are offered a role which provides them an opportunity to build cross functional or sub functional exposure. People prefer to stay with the role and expetise they have developed over the period. The apprehension may be that they will have to start all over again and it will slow down their growth curve in the long run. The changing business landscape necessitate that while we have a mastery over a skill, we must get cross functional exposure.
Let us take an example of Pager. When they arrived on the scene, we thought it was a great revolution the way we communicate. However, no sooner the mobile phone took the center-stage, death of PAGING business was immediate. The time is over, when we had specialized gadgets, phones just for making calls, still photo cameras to take still photos, video cameras to take videos, pagers just to message texts etc. Now what has happened…. You have got one gadget, SMART PHONES – which is one in all and not just that, has many more applications over and above and it is the most successful gadget around.
We all know that getting exposure to new skills / expertise is the need of the hour. Sooner we align our mindset and start taking steps in developing mutli-functional exposure is better before our existing expertize become obsolete and we are thrown out of the jobs. Before email came in, secretary job was much in demand and dictation and typing was large part of day to day job, however, now job has become limited with added dimensions.
Of course, there is a possibility that if you focus on multi-functional / sub-functional expertise for some years you witness stagnation in terms of vertical growth, however that is the time when your roots are getting the depth and breadth so badly needed to build a long lasting impact-ful career.
I am myself an operations turned HR professional and stayed at a staff level for close to 7 years learning various aspects of sales, commercial, transition, supply chain, quality, business analytic etc, before moving into HR and then build skills around the HR value chain. During my operations days I got exposure to multiple functions which created a platform for me for vertical growth and also keeps me in a good stead and ahead in my chosen area of excellence - Human Resources. If you build depth and breadth, vertical growth automatically follows.
Lately we are witnessing scenarios where organizations are on hunt for people who are having multi-functional exposure. We earlier used to have specialized technical people who would just cater to technical requirements of the project and there would be separate project managers handling project dynamics and people and yet another group who will be doing just sales. Now when cost optimization, productivity and digitization are not longer buzzword and have become hygiene - people are being trained in a manner that they have technical expertise, are handling projects at over all level and even pitch in to fetch revenue.
Another benefit of cross-functional development pertains to management and leadership. Leaders are responsible for managing people within various business roles and if they have an overall perspective of business and various functions, not only it helps in making their job easier and effective, however, they also tend to command respect of their peers and staff. Also people like to surround themselves with people they relate to: they seek out people who are similar rather than people who are different and if you have multi-functional knowledge then you will instantly connect with larger group of people.
We have always been hearing a proverb “Jack of all, Master of None” and we are made to believe that this is not a good situation to be in. However, even if you are Master or have a specialization in one Function, it always adds value when you gain knowledge of other functions as well. It gives you an edge over the people who lack multi-functional exposure as organizations get more flexibility with you.
Hence we need to ponder and assess that with fast changing world what is it that will not just keep us going however help us thrive.