Cross-Functional Learning


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3 Major Benefits of Cross-Functional Professional Development

By Lisa Woods (1060 words)
Posted in Professional Development on January 5, 2013

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Sometimes we enjoy working with others, sometimes…not so much.  Typically, our enjoyment is based on our relationships; we rely on a personal exchange in order to get along & work cohesively.  Simply put, personal exchanges are not enough. Here’s why: Business actions, simple or complex, can become personality struggles when a professional connection does not exist.  The real goal is to build professional connections.  Cross Functional Development allows you to create professional relationships in order to get things done, get better results, and integrate your needs into the overall organization.  That’s right, your needs! Professional relationships are built on respect as the primary motivator, more so than likability, providing greater opportunity for you to add value as a better communicator and resource for your organization.


To understand the concept, let’s first explain the difference between Functional and Cross-Functional development.


Functional Development is when you take action to improve your job, get others to buy into your ideas, as well as participate in activities that elevate your exposure within your organization or field. 

            Some actions you can take…

  • Create tools to proactively communicate your information: share goals and results with others.
  • Make an effort to teach others: explain why certain things are important to you and the company; helping others to understand your role.
  • Listen to feedback: seek out feedback from those you work with (your boss, other departments, your employees and your customers).  Understand the needs they have when working with you and identify what you could do better to support them.
  • Participate in continuous education, seminars, etc.… to update your skills.


Cross Functional Development is when you take action to study the functional development of other jobs or professions in order to develop a well-rounded view of your business.  It is not enough to look at the people you interact with.  Instead you must learn about ALL business functions.  Every aspect of business relates to your job.  By developing yourself cross-functionally you will be able to identify what those professional relationships are and improve upon them.

            Some actions you can take…

  • Learn the goals and results of other departments or other levels in your company’s hierarchy.
  • Learn what is important (their needs) to other departments and individuals in your company.  Understand different roles and the impact they have on the company.
  • Establish a working understanding of what each functional area of your business should be doing and how they should work together.


There Are Three Major Benefits of Cross-Functional Development

  1. You will know how to talk with others so that they listen to you.  You will understand how to show them respect for the value they bring and communicate with them in terms they will be able to understand and act on.
  2. Another benefit of cross-functional development pertains to management and leadership.  Nobody has expertise in every field, but leaders are responsible for managing people within various business roles.  If you are managing others, you should have a general understanding not only of their responsibilities, but the expectation they should be setting for themselves.   Managers can use cross-functional development as a means to set expectations for their employees.
  3. The value of your personality and ability to get along with others is huge…and should not be taken for granted.  But through cross-functional development your value becomes an expertise that trumps personality.  You bring value to your organization by creating yourself as a central point resource.  Very few people understand your business, how things work, how things get done effectively.  If you can provide that value to all areas of your company, you will set yourself up for more responsibility and future promotions.


Now, one question that always comes up on this subject is: “How do I get cross-functional knowledge without aggravating people?”  It is a very valid question.  Don’t snoop around by asking questions people don’t want to answer.  You are not a spy.  What you are trying to do is chronicle process flows, understand the business and try to integrate what you are doing to become more service oriented.  Be honest with people.  Explain to them that you want to learn the business.  Ask for a formal sit-down to review your understanding of what happens in each department and find out if your views are accurate, having them fill in the blanks.  If you approach the topic as someone that wants to learn, instead of someone that wants to judge, the likelihood that others will spend the time teaching you greatly improves.   Make sure that as you develop your full view of the business, you go back to those that helped you and share your findings.  This again will set you up as a resource for pulling others together.


ManagingAmericans.com establishes an infrastructure for cross-functional learning.  We provide 25 functional communities, each defining job roles, challenges and success parameters for different areas of the business.  From executive leadership to first time managers, sales to operations, human resources to supply chain…our resources are a means to develop your career, raise the bar in your organization and improve your results.


An MBA teaches you well rounded business concepts, but developing your cross-functional knowledge & the professional relationships that come with it will propel your value within your organization dramatically. 


Good luck!




Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com


Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.





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At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of the business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career. 


Comments (2)

Emmet Ryder posted on: January 8, 2013

Like the article! Good stuff. Thanks!

Mario Cavett posted on: October 17, 2016

As a 20 year Marketing Professional I must say you were one of my major influences to get into the business of Marketing.

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