IntroductionCross Functional Experiences across functional areas of Management is a very delicate process. There are quite a few important points if such cross-functional experiences can be effective in terms of highly meaningful roles and experiences. Only such experiences can go a long way in making careers a great success. Cross-functional experiences can be very successful in cementing very good careers if such experiences are carefully planned. The most successful experiences will occur when a) Cross-functional experiences are across growing industries and products b) Project experiences are avoided c) Cross-functional experiences are in Corporate Offices for at least ten years d) Cross-functional experiences are punctuated by at least one global exposure and e) Cross-functional experiences also have HR responsibilities.
Cross-functional experiences are across growing industries and products Some years ago, no one gave the online agencies in a variety of businesses a chance. Today, Ola has captured the market for rented cars in many cities. Swiggy has come out with a memorable "what a delivery" to coincide with the IPL fever. It has become a roaring success. All that needs to be done in any given situation is to assess which of such organizations will keep growing "at any cost". These "at any cost" are the best "all bets off" organizations where one can always take on challenges. For example, a professional from the Mudra Institute of Communications had a good stint at Quikr before joining a very challenging role in the online marketing vehicle for investment called bankbazaar.com. This is now growing like leaps and bounds. The woman, who does not like to be named, is the big boss here. The lesson is significant. Get into areas where the business has potential. Only such organizations will offer maximum chances of growth. And most of these are based out of the metro cities. And at least seventy percent of them from Bangalore where the IT ecosystem is more well developed. Even if we take this lady's experience, she has had different experiences, but within the same ecosystem. She has not deviated even one inch. For example, if she had jumped to marketing in an FMCG company, she would have to start from scratch and this would be very difficult indeed. Look at the range of experiences. She has had substantial exposure to finance since the Quikr job had huge cost control responsibilities. She is now driving business at bankbazaar.com. She straddles HR, marketing and operations. And of course, heads the Strategy formulation too. When this author met up with this relative of his, she merely said that she wanted to grow the business by two hundred percent in three years. Big goals obviously motivate such professionals.
Project experiences are avoided The Ambani brothers have had a brilliant record of smooth talking and taking in the best of professionals. Anil Ambani would invite the senior professional for lunch and a big discussion. The three-hour appointment would end up with a blank cheque being given to the individual. The individual would specify his own CTC!! And Ambani would simply ask "why only this much?" and inflate it by at least sixty percent This author knows both types of professionals. Those who learned so many things and went on to different roles in very senior capacities and earning salaries that we unheard of, with the Ambanis. The second bitter story is that some projects never took off. The cash flows did not happen. Today, the same Anil Ambani is trying to get out of so many businesses. All this can be avoided if the professional were to avoid the project companies at all. Many projects in most areas are now subject to the vagaries of the Government policies. There could be a global recession and when that happens, the organization goes for a big toss. Even the Tatas are feeling the heat. Hence, as the lady referred to above, stick to the knitting and do not deviate to project management roles. This holds good even for people who would want to graduate to middle management roles to the senior management roles.
Cross-functional experiences are in Corporate Offices for at least ten years This is a must. At the Corporate Offices of most companies, you can get to know the inside information of many a brilliant strategy. Many owner-managers are as professional as you are. In spite of the fact that you would still report to them and have to sail with their whims and fancies, there are most chances that you will automatically get the cross-functional experiences, as members of not one, but several cross-functional teams. This will enable you to know the macro picture to a very large extent and you can literally go places. This has happened to many professionals. They get to boss over HR, Strategy formulation and execution and the marketing aspects too. The best of cross-functional experiences.
Cross-functional experiences should be punctuated by at least one global exposure Guess what is the most important career preference of young ISB products with at least four years of pre-qualification experience? Most, that is, fifty percent prefer startups. Reason? They get to rub shoulders with the best of professionals. They also get to go abroad and stay on. When these startups want to go abroad and expand, the guys who are too good in India, are chosen. The startups come with fabulous operational freedom. The big bosses can recruit anyone and sack anyone. They can literally have as many as two hundred people at various levels. The "can do" and "will do" atmosphere prevails in most pockets. The global exposure comes naturally. Even in the big FMCG companies like Unilever, the professionals get to work abroad in very senior capacities. It is still possible for senior professionals to go to a great job, after the Indian experience. Hence, there should at least be one cross-functional experience with one global exposure.
Cross-functional experiences also have HR responsibilities The vital question is: how many people did you manage? Contrary to public perception, this is relevant to any functional field. It could be anywhere between twenty to a hundred or even more. The more the merrier. You just cannot afford to talk to everyone every day. However, your accessibility to new ideas and the way you motivate people at various levels will be very closely watched in your career. Hence, get this vital HR exposure by choosing roles where you control more number of people.
Conclusions The more cross-functional experience you have, the more successful you will be. However, to do this, you also need to have tact and intelligence. The very different career moves that you make are so important and these can vary from individual to individual. Learning from each career move is so important to this process.
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Cross-functional experience will give a person more skills and competencies. A production man working in the safety department and the quality department will make him an all-rounder and definitely, he will have good demand not only from the other companies even the present where the individual is working. The companies will never like to leave such persons with cross-functional experience. Such people will have a very good chance to become the General Managers of the organization and will have better chances to go up in the ladder. But all depends on the individual and his planning. When you are working in a particular area you should not limit yourself to that area alone. Whenever a chance comes you should show an inclination to work with other functional areas also so that you will get an all-round experience which makes you stand separately from the other people. I have seen people with multifunctional area experience flourishing more in the office than the man who limited himself to a particular section.
A good article about the cross-functional experience and its use in getting success in one's career. A person working in the industry has to be well aware of the various functions and procedures in the different areas in that particular business. A manager who cannot join the threads between the different business basics between those compartments cannot get an overview of it and can not function in a broader perspective. It is only when one is able to join the different activities in the different work groups and assimilate them for the overall productivity and profitability of the organisation that such a success can be obtained. A good manager has to be expert in taking the experience of one functional area to others and take its mileage in the overall progress of the organization as well as his own career.