The Move from Specializing in One Area of Your Business to Working across Functions

By Consumer Dummies

Several forces are pushing decision-makers to hold an expanded view not only of their businesses, but of their roles as well. Here are the highlights:

  • The shift away from the old notion that you’re either a specialist or a generalist: You may specialize in a function, but you’ll always need to know where you fit in terms of the company’s success and how the company dovetails into the rest of the world. Understanding what the higher purpose of a company is helps employees stay engaged while achieving that purpose.
  • The trend toward combining complementary functions into one role so that all can function more cooperatively: Internal functions, such as sales versus marketing, for example, used to compete with each other. But businesses can no longer afford to waste productive energy on unproductive competition among staff members or company divisions. The idea behind combining complementary functions is to serve the employee community and the customer, not feed competitive conflict.
  • The shift away from centralized decision-making, in which decisions are made by a few, to decentralized decision-making: This structure fosters collaboration and timelier responses to change, and everyone contributes to the company’s success.

As a decision-maker, how can you prepare for these changes? By taking the actions outlined here:

  • Seek out opportunities to work in different areas of expertise. Working with others whose expertise differs from yours makes you a well-rounded individual and gives you insight into other areas of the company. This exposure to multiple areas gives you a new, broader perspective that can inform your decisions and help you predict what impact your decisions will have.
  • Participate in decision-making related to the best projects to move forward on. Quality, not quantity, of projects aids success. You’ll gain experience in seeing how projects bring together expertise from within and beyond your company’s boundaries. Even if you’re working on a joint venture, you’ll gain insight into how very different values, criteria, and beliefs guide decision-making.
  • Practice empathy. Use every conflict or misunderstanding to see through someone else’s eyes. Doing so lets you use your team’s diverse outlooks to your advantage. Plus, this capability is an essential quality for anyone paying attention to the workplace culture and customer relationships. Your greatest ally is your ability to listen.
  • Embrace the idea that you don’t know everything there is to know. Don’t believe everything you think. There is more knowledge, excitement, and opportunity waiting, and the only thing required to tap into it is curiosity! Through social media and other resources, information can flow instantly around the world. This new reality expands what is available, and it opens new relationships from many different sources.