For me, cross training in a gym is a distant memory but I am sure some of my readers may still indulge. In a business sense, cross training is a great way to improve the business.
In a well-designed induction program a new team member may experience several different departments over a number of days or weeks. That allows them to start on the job with a wider understanding of how their work impacts upon the rest of the business. It’s a really good way to bring someone into the team and make sure they have a decent understanding of how the business as a whole gets things done.
It’s not often that you see the same principles being applied to established team members, but it can be a great way of making sure that departments work together, rather than forming silos where information is retained within the department and competition with other departments rather than cooperation is the order of the day.
Tesco used to require the senior team (from directors down) to spend some time on the shop floor every year. I wonder if that no longer happens, and some of their problems can be related to the disconnection between the leaders of the business and its customers.
When you acquire a business you should have a plan to integrate the two businesses and a very powerful way to blend the cultures is to have an exchange of staff.
I’ve used cross training with the credit and collections teams, working with the sales team. The credit team can be very dismissive of the sales team – I’m sure you have heard phrases like “Those lazy sales folk, they can’t even get the credit application form completed” but get the credit team into the meetings and they’ll realise (a) how much else is going on to secure the customer and (b) how clumsy the credit application form is. In one case I remember the credit application form was reduced from 8 pages to 2.
Cross training really can keep (your business) fit