Kaleidoscopic Conversation: Cross-Functionality

Share some of your proudest cross-functional achievements and discuss best practices for working across the aisle.

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In a previous role, I was a technical support manager for a global remote access and communication software company. Our department held a challenge for teams to pitch the greatest product enhancement or development. This was such a fun challenge to be a part of because our team members were the TRUE experts. They were on the frontlines with the customers and in the backend with the sales, product, and development teams every day. It was brilliant! One of the best things my team members did was to identify the one commonality between all teams and solve a problem for that commonality. In our case, it was the customer. They considered “what does the customer need” from the perspective of each department.

Identifying a north star for all people, teams, departments, and business units can be a strong unifier (and sometimes the only unifier) when achieving a cross-functional initiative. For us and in this challenge, the customer was the north star. For other challenges to solve for, and in other companies, the north star could be learners/participants, public, stakeholders, health, safety, etc. The key is to find the one unifying purpose and tie everyone involved in the initiative to it.

When it came to the enhancement challenge, my team identified a change in coding within remote access software that would identify and eliminate repeat spammer/hacker usage. This enhancement would make the product more secure, it would increase end user safety, and improve customer perception of the product. All teams involved in the development of this product would see and feel its positive result. Our team won first place in the competition. We were awarded a trip to meet with our developers at the company’s headquarters in Budapest to discuss enhancement implementation. From soup to nuts, it was my absolute favorite cross-functional experience and achievement.

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Peggy - thank you so much for sharing these fabulous, resonant insights. Agreed - a north star is a spoke around which any one cross-functional initiative can revolve, no matter the disparate perspectives and forces at play. It’s the core, centric principle that keeps everyone aligned and moving forward. Making a specific customer need the centric principle is today’s business imperative given the sheer amount of choice out there in the marketplace. Re: Budapest - I haven’t been in years, but have the fondest memories of swimming in the Gellert thermal baths, attending the Nagycirkusz (I love the circus), supping on everlasting bowls of goulash and indulging in what is (or, at least, was 15 years ago) possibly the most over-the-top brunch buffet in Europe at Gundel.

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Alex, your memories regarding Budapest make me want to go back sooner than later! What fond memories!

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