Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cross functional teams

This past month has been very reflective for me. I have met many of my old colleagues from previous consulting projects going way back to the mid 90s. What has been interesting has been the observation that the battles we were fighting then are the same now. I would have thought that basics like the need for cross functional project teams working on a prioritised set of investments that are each going to deliver competitive advantage into the future would be mainstream and yet I still am frequently having to coerce and influence organisations into adopting this philosophy.

It was, therefore, very refreshing to read the article in last week's economist on Pixar. For those of you who have attended one of our training courses you will know that we are big fans of Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan. Carlos is a genius in leading large disparate organisations to deliver a common vision of being the most profitable car company in the world. He turned both organisations around in the mid to late 90s and has been running both organisations since mid this decade, achieving what other car alliances and mergers have never been able to achieve....shareholder value. The reason I mention this in relation to the Pixar article is that it describes how Pixar used the continuous improvement principles of Toyota to generate constant and never ending improvements to their animated films. This shows how looking at high performing industry's in an innovative way and adopting their best management practices can provide real competitive advantage. The other reason Carlos came to mind when reading the article was because it talks about how Pixar manages to integrate the various creative talents of its 1,200 strong workforce enabling them to work across portfolios and comment and improve works that they are not directly involved in. This is a movie production house's version of cross functional teams. Creative design teams aren't besotted with their own projects but can be called upon to critique and assist other projects that are running in parallel. A rare thing in this industry. So once again, cross functional communication, integration and a common vision creates enormous value for in this case Disney and its shareholders (sounds like a management philosophy I like to peddle).

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