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3 Reasons Why a Cross Functional Team is Hard to Find

March 27, 2012

A cross functional Team is crucial to get items to Done. However, not many Agile Teams become a cross functional Team. Some of the most important reasons they struggle to become a cross functional Team are

  1. Waterfall setup of the organization
  2. Lack of required skills
  3. “Hard roles” on the Team

1. Waterfall Setup of the Organization

This is typically caused by the way projects are financed and resourced. Finance and resourcing units in many organizations work traditionally, although these organizations have adopted Agile. The way project Teams are set up hinder Teams from becoming a cross functional Team.

In these cases, the project financing teams do not understand or appeciate Agile. They require detailed project scope, resourcing, cost and schedule information. They have set up their processes based on traditional waterfall model. They struggle to understand the Agile notion of an emerging requirement, namely, the Product Backlog, emergent architecture, Sprint, and self-organizing Teams.

Project Teams are forced to produce detailed requirements, to predict resourcing needs, and to predict schedules based on fixed scope.

Project Teams are forced to gather requirements, and perform a big chunk of their analysis and design work upfront. This work might be done within a “Sprint” or many Sprints. This forces the project Teams to organize so the “delivery teams” are resourced mostly with developers and testers. Architects, designers, and business analysts are grouped in separate “Teams” to develop upfront requirements, design, and resourcing plans.

In many cases, organizations lack people with testing background. They struggle to resource all the projects with sufficient people with solid testing skills. They put testers in separate test teams. Every Sprint, the Team produces some piece of functionality just “developer tested”. This needs verification by the separate test team. The Team clearly lacks the skills when turning the selected Product Backlog into a Done increment of functionality within a Sprint.

The project is set up in an old waterfall way but development and testing is performed in Sprints.

2. “Hard Roles” On the Team

Team members contribute to their Team becoming non-cross functional when they insist on adhering to only what their job titles say during the Sprint, nothing more. They become an impediment for their Teams in becoming non-cross functional.

Members of such Teams hang on to their “old school” titles. Designers unwilling to do anything but design and develop, architects who do not want to do anything but design systems, developers who do not want to do anything but just write code. Testers who insist on having formal test specifications and are unwilling to work closely with the other Team members to get an understanding of the system during the. During the Sprint, they hesitate to work with developers for writing the test automation code or for learning how to write the test code themselves. Business analysts unwilling to do any other thing than just write requirements. Even pushing the Team to the limits with its commitments, these members are not willing to do anything more than their job title requires.

They do not contribute in any other way, which might be required to get the work completed every Sprint.

3. Complete Misunderstanding

Occasionally, organizations receive requests to deliver projects using Agile by their customers (or in some case by their management). They are forced to deliver using Agile or not deliver at all. They have never done Agile before but they do not want to miss out.

They do quick googling. They go and read a book or two. They tend to have a strong legacy of traditional waterfall delivery. In this haste, they completely misunderstand Agile. When they develop their project plan, it comes out as nothing more than a waterfall plan with Sprints, Scrum Masters and a few more Agile and Scrum terms thrown in.

The project is resourced in a waterfall fashion, with no consideration of an Agile cross functional Team.

Learn more about Agile Development, Scrum and the role of cross functional Team in one of Scrum Master Certification Courses.

© Faisal Mahmood

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