What is a cross-functional and self-managed team in Agile?

Cross-Functional Teams in Agile

This blog covers one of the most critical traits of Agile development –

  • What is a cross-functional and self-managed team in Agile?
  • What are the challenges to build such a team and how to overcome them?

A cross-functional team is a group of people with all the required skill sets to work together and finish a specific task without dependencies on people outside the team. It doesn’t mean that a member of a cross-functional team must be multi-tasking or have a skill set of multiple functional domains. However, a team with a breadth of knowledge along with the depth of knowledge is unbeatable.


A cross-functional team consists of technical or non-technical members who share a common vision and collaborate to solve problems. Members may belong to different departments or functional domains and should have different perspectives on exploring problems and solutions.


Here is a simple example of a cross-functional team to understand:


Imagine, there is a project to develop an application like Amazon, Netflix, etc, in that case, the team of designer focus on designing the app’s looks & feel, the backend developers focus on developing APIs, and the frontend developers are responsible to integrate UI & UX with APIs and the QAs ensure to test the end to end functionality, meeting all acceptance criteria without any open bugs before deploying into environments like production or others. This way we can do the development of A to Z requirements for this application without the help or dependency of external resources.



A cross-functional team must-have traits of a self-managed team. It means members of a group must be accountable for work and able to decide who will do what, when & how without the intervention of people outside the group or supervision of managers. The team has sole rights to take decisions and innovate to get work done based on the mutual consensus of members of the team. Self-managed teams show leadership and accountability traits even without a hierarchy in place.


In Agile development, cross-functional and self-managed teams are key to generating increment in each sprint because it avoids any dependencies on outside teams which can be a bottleneck and impact sprint commitment. Techniques of Agile estimation and planning come in handy as it helps teams to complete a prioritized task in the product backlog.


Like other things, cross-functional and self-managed teams have some challenges, such as communication, trust, respect for team diversity, feelings of lack of recognition, and most importantly mindset change from working in silos to working as one team.


To solve these, a cross-functional team size should not be greater than 10 members so that a robust and clear communication channel can be established by doing frequent communication and constant collaboration. Teams should listen to each other, respect ideas, and offer unconditional support. They should understand the individual personalities, articulation, skills, and interests of each member of the team to embrace diversity.


The key is to work together to achieve a common goal, applaud each other, share credit & gratitude for each other and celebrate the team achievements and recognition to ensure the trait of one team mindset. We can explore conducting introductory Agile workshops at the start of this journey to bring the team on same page and inculcate a common understanding.


Conclusion:

Cross-functional and self-managed teams are key ingredients of agile development. Both traits in an agile team are the backbone to ensuring the success of agile practices and generating business value using agile.


Hope this blog helps you understand in detail.

Please reach out to us at “ [email protected]” for any feedback, suggestions, or questions.


Abhijeet Kumar
Agile Consultant, Benzne

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