One For All, and all for one
PrintOne For All, and all for one
By Ed Avis
Retailers and CPGs Break Down Silos with Cross-Functional Teams

Kings Food Markets' Local Fresh 24/7 program is proof of the power of teamwork.

The locally grown program, which brings fresh produce into the stores within 24 hours of harvest, is the result of a cross-functional team that met for about six months starting in the fall of 2011 and included representatives from Kings' marketing, operations and merchandising departments as well as representatives from Red Tomato, a nonprofit that coordinates produce delivery from local farms.

"We could not have achieved the success we have with Local Fresh 24/7 if we didn't have the cross-functional [team]," says Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce and floral.

Cross-functional teams help break down silos that exist at many retailers and food suppliers, allowing the companies to take advantage of skills found in various departments and resulting in better "buy in" for decisions, experts say. Sometimes teams are specifically designed with representatives from various functions; other times they evolve that way. Regardless of how they form, cross-functional teams generally focus on one task for a limited period of time. They're most often used in retail and food manufacturing settings when decisions need to be made that affect more than one department.

A cross-functional team worked together to develop Kings Food Markets' Local Fresh 24/7 program.

For example, Kings needed to establish wide acceptance of its Local Fresh program, and a team approach helped accomplish that. "It was imperative that everyone within the organization be on the same page for us to grow the program from a pilot in our Livingston store to a service all Kings' customers could experience in their neighborhood location," Kneeland says.

Allens Inc., a producer of canned and frozen vegetables based in Siloam Springs, Ark., recently formed a cross-functional team to develop a new line of flavored baked beans. "We have found that at Allens, we gain expertise and ownership from each department with cross-functional teams," says David Brown, vice president of sales. "In the food business and as a vegetable leader, it just makes sense."

The team included 10 people from Allens' quality control, product development, finance, sales and production departments as well as prospective customers for the new product line. "Each department signed off on the product and, as approval came, the project moved forward," Brown says.

Gaining acceptance from all affected areas will speed implementation, says Jessica Butler, founder of Attain Consulting Group in Ridgewood, N.J. The boss can dictate a solution, but when a team that includes all of the key departments comes up with a fix, it will have a greater chance of succeeding.

To make the process smooth, supervisors need to approve of team members' participation, says Mary Kay O'Connor, owner of StartingPoint LLC, a management consulting firm in Kansas City, Mo. The managers should be told why the team exists, how often it will meet and its expected duration.