A business’ road to success and growth can be paved with an increasing sense of disconnection and fr

Regardless of the size of your organization, there comes a time when all employees have pretty much staked out their respective territories. Whether by assignment, ability or the natural pecking order, each person learns his or her function and assigned duties in the company. While the irony is that this assignment of work is rarely how things started out and isn’t reflected on any organizational chart, it is the natural order of business and seems to be pretty much cast in stone.

Another curiosity of human nature is that when people get better at what they do, they often function less as a team and more as individuals. They tend to drop into a comfort zone, from which they resent intrusions and outside feedback. These “experts” often see suggestions as a challenge to their authority and often respond with a “we’ve always done it this way” attitude, closing the door to future growth and improvement. While their skills are vital to the success of your organization, the integration of these strengths is what gives your company an identity—the old adage about being greater than the sum of the parts.

This article focuses on how to look at your organization from a fresh perspective, determining the different roles being played by the members of your team and exploring how they may be better integrated. While a lot of emphasis is placed on the problems that develop within larger corporate structures, the concepts addressed are universal regardless of the size of the business. Big companies start out as small companies – and often turn back into them if they’re not careful!

Defining the 5 Basic Business Groups

A business is typically divided into as many as five functional areas: administration, sales, engineering (sometimes called design or applications), installation and service (which includes support). Although your organization might not have all of these disciplines, the basic examples of this article hold true for almost any company or organization.

New Roles Emerge as a Company Develops

When Sam and Sally Smith and their three sons started their company years ago, they never anticipated the overwhelming demand for the sales, installation and support of sprockets. They consulted their friends, thought long and hard and finally decided to “bite the bullet.” After hiring an accountant and lawyer, the Smith Sprocket Corp. was born.

Success Sometimes Breeds Isolation

As the sprocket business continued to grow, the Smith family found themselves taking on more help. The responsibilities that the members of the family had chosen for themselves turned into full-scale departments, each with several people working as a team. All of the employees continued to focus on their specific duties, and a “niche” mentality set in. Talent Should Cross Departmental Barriers

With any project or endeavor, the flow of information must complete a circle. Sales defines the customers’ requirements and builds the relationship. Engineering designs the appropriate system. Installation puts it together, installs it and provides training. Service handles all of the subsequent problems and manages the ongoing customer relationship. Without strong interdepartmental communication, an isolated mentality sets in and it is easy to see the breakdown. Training Is Valuable in, Out of Assigned Areas

Many companies pay little attention to the formal training of their employees. This is particularly evident in salespeople who are expected to meet quotas and are rarely given the time to learn about what they are selling, outside of an initial “indoctrination.” Magazines, the occasional seminar or convention and lots of cut sheets are about the extent of training for most companies.Encourage Versatility Among Staff MembersPeople tend to wind up in career paths that travel in a different direction than their personal goals and objectives. Allowing people to choose a secondary area of work serves many important purposes. Establish a Unified Teamwork MentalityOnce cross training is established, you, in essence, create a group of apprentices that can be a tremendous help in equalizing the workload (or “resource leveling” as my project management software calls it). We are always busy, but rarely in all areas at the same time. Changes Promise More Profits, Better MoraleMost of these ideas are common sense and many organizations are already implementing some of them. Their advantages are clear—the real possibility of a gain in efficiency, profitability and morale with virtually no downside. Robert D. Grossman is president of International Technical Services Group (ITSG) in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. He may be reached at (609) 927-6700, ext. 201, or via E-mail at [email protected].

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