What if normal businesses did the same thing? What would happen if my chief executive announced that the finance director was going to take over running HR, the HR director would become the new marketing director and I was to be offered the brief of running the finance department?
Apart from being jolly good fun, would it enhance business performance? If we are all good leaders, have business acumen and are surrounded by subject experts (as Government ministers have with civil servants), then why not?
Just think of the power of mutual appreciation of that team if the HR director got to understand what it is really like to manage a launch campaign, to deliver the requirements of an ever-expectant sales team, yet all within the budgets imposed by the finance department?
What would happen if the finance, HR and marketing directors got the chance to run each other’s functions?
And what if I – the marketing director – got to discover where all the money trees really grow!
I am only half joking. It kind of happens at the start of your career. For my business, it is the time of year when our new graduates start and they take part in a programme of four different roles every six months before selecting the area in which they want to specialise.
I have also encouraged secondments from our agencies into my team – and occasionally vice-versa – all on the pretext of gaining a greater understanding of each other’s businesses. But could I see my creative director swapping his pencil for my marketing plan, or my head of product management growing a ponytail? Would they be taken seriously in the boardroom?
While there are exceptions, the honest answer is no. The prevailing view in most businesses is that HR, finance and marketing are all professions in themselves and you get to the top by taking the exams, and earning your spurs over the years.
But as someone who is always up for challenging the status quo, I would welcome the chance to be part of such an experiment, not least because it would create a new level of teamwork, engagement, networking and appreciation. Just think, a company all pulling in the same direction for once.