Now We’re Cooking - A Truly Cross-Functional Team

Posted 12/16/2013 by Tony Lombardo

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Sometimes in the tangle of deadlines and deliverables, that work-life balance we all strive so hard to achieve tends to disappear, only to be replaced by a blur of days and weeks. A few weeks back, that’s exactly where I was. You know the kind of days where you start sub-prioritizing all of your No. 1 priorities? It wasn’t just me though; the entire organization had been firing on all cylinders for what seemed like the marketing equivalent of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We headed into our team meeting that week ready to again shift priorities or make room for another project. As we expected, there was something new. Unexpectedly though, this was a project everyone was interested in taking on - cooking dinner for the local Ronald McDonald House in West Long Branch, N.J. It was just what I needed to remind me of the world happening around me, and suddenly my prioritization list seemed trivial.

If you’re not familiar with the Ronald McDonald House, here’s an excerpt from their site that I think perfectly describes the purpose.

“Our Houses are built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child – not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest.”

Along with 10 of my colleagues, we were going to deliver on that promise and prepare a home-cooked meal for the families at our local Ronald McDonald House. I’ve run 5Ks for various causes, donated blood, bought Girl Scout Cookies, etc.  (OK, the Girl Scout cookies were a selfish purchase, but Tagalongs may well be the perfect cookie.) The point, though, is that for the first time, I was able to participate in something where I was directly helping someone. There was no middle man, no administration fees. This felt great. And to add to that, I really enjoy cooking. 

The biggest surprise came when this group came together. We were from different groups, there were staff, managers, and manager’s managers, but none of that mattered. There was no delegating responsibilities, no project plan or Gantt chart - just a truly functional team of big-hearted volunteers. Sure, there was a little competitive nature about it all (you can’t put a bunch of Type A personalities into a room together and not expect that), but that’s what makes working with this team so great. In the end, we cooked a delicious meal, worked on team skills, and most important, helped those in our own community. This was a success by any definition. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here’s a sampling of what was on the menu. 

  • Fresh Italian Salad
  • Garlic Bread
  • Baked Ziti
  • Mud and Worms (A chocolate pudding dessert with Oreo crumbs and gummy worms)

To make it even more memorable, several of us dressed up for the occasion. We were in costumes to entertain the families, and each other!