Cross-functional teams are powerful because they can tackle complex problems quickly and efficiently. What’s the best way to staff and arrange them? Here are some basics to keep in mind.
A cross-functional team is a team comprised of people proficient in different functions that share a common goal. While these individuals may have differing expertise, they should be accountable for collective success – a pivotal part of any effective team! The team needs to be committed to accomplishing a body of work as a whole. If Steve is the designer and Steve gets sick (ugh Steve!!), the design work still needs to be completed! Others will need to fill in. Team members will have expertise in certain areas but will likely need to work in several functions outside of them.
The intent is to reduce or eliminate external dependencies and provide the team with all the knowledge and expertise required to accomplish its goals. This requires combining several different functional areas into one team.
Cross-functional teams are powerful because they can tackle complex problems quickly and efficiently. When all dependencies are internal to the team, issues like “waiting for Quality to review my code” or “waiting for Test to check code integration” should no longer exist. However, this only works when every team member is accountable for their overall, collective success.
No! Cross-functional teams are not specifically mentioned in the Agile Manifesto’s Values or Principles. However, the Manifesto does have important details about teams:
The most important consideration is picking motivated individuals that are willing to learn! Team members will take on unfamiliar tasks for the success of the team, so make sure they are comfortable with this expectation and that their colleagues are prepared to support them.
Go back to the intent: Eliminate external dependencies and provide the team with all the knowledge and expertise required to accomplish its goals.
If the flow of work is regularly held up by a particular group or function, add them to the team! Of course, a sweet spot exists, and the best way to find it is through experimentation. There is a fine line between optimizing teams and sub-optimizing the system. Troy Magennis had a great keynote that touched on this point at Agile2018.
When working with cross-functional teams, there are a few pitfalls to avoid:
These are a few of our experiences and recommendations with cross-functional teams. What are some of yours?
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