Hands-on Agile #36: Real Cross-functional Teams—Jutta Eckstein & Maryse Meinen

Oct 26, 2021 · Berlin, Germany

At the core of agile development are self-organizing cross-functional teams. Yet, this is often understood as e.g., backend & front-end developers working together. If an organization is aiming for company-wide agility, to fully benefit from agility it has to enable teams as value centers that are truly cross-functional by bringing in different perspectives from business, markets, cultures, beliefs etc. This way cross-functional teams overcome not only the limitations of organizational silos but also of a singular view on the market.

Too many products have been developed that serve one kind of client only. The reason is that the composition of the teams leads (subconsciously) to the development of products that serve only people that resemble the people in the team. One “famous” example is the soap dispenser that only works if your hands are white.

If teams are really cross-functional and are resembling the diversity of the market, the products they’re creating are also better. Thus, if the whole team has the full business expertise, knows the market, reflects the full diversity of the clients, then it can even disrupt the market and isn’t waiting for some person (e.g., the Product Owner) to decide on priorities. With this real cross-functionality the team can fully understand the company’s business and has a holistic view of it, knowing its contribution to the company’s value stream.

Real cross-functional teams are an essential building block for implementing company-wide agility and the organization benefits by creating better and in a way more real products and by having more options when entering the war of talent.

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