How to Develop A Cross-Functional Agile Development Team

When it comes to Agile Development there are a lot of ways to look at a team and how their dynamics work. Going off of the Agile Manifesto “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”, you have to look at the fact that this is real life and you will have team members who leave for vacation or have other matters to attend to.

 

How do you keep your sprint moving without killing your velocity?

 

The answers simple, yet possibly not so easily implemented. You want to have a team that is truly aware and knows how to work on parts of their work. Yes, the answer is simple, yet it has many complexities to it. I hope to clear this up in this article.

In order to ensure that everyone can essentially keep velocities up, each person in the team has to grow, they must acquire new skill sets of each of the other team members and in order to ensure that this is being done, you have to actually track it and see where everyone is at.

Step 1: Get A Baseline

The primary thing you will want to do is track a baseline of where everyone is in skill sets. You have to ensure that no one there is being judged or checked against their technical knowledge or abilities, otherwise, you will end up with a lot of hostility.

I personally like to get the team’s buy-in on the concept of personal development and growth before I actually do this. People will want to have to learn and grow with their team members, otherwise, you will just have a lot of resistance.

In your baseline, have every team member write down their skill sets from programming knowledge or any functions that are relevant to the work that needs to be done. Have each team member establish a 0 to 10 (10 being the ultimate master and they could teach this stuff in their sleep).

Take a Wall Post-It and write down all the various skill sets of each team member. Each team member will then pick out a different color marker and dot or graph where they are at in each skill set.

The graph will look something like the below chart.

Graph showing step 1 on an agile cross-functional team

Notice that there are a lot of peaks and valleys. The objective is to now get your team to start using some of these techniques in order to reduce these peaks and valleys.

 

Step 2: Techniques to Reduce Peaks and Valleys for a Cross-Functional Agile Team

 

  • Swarming: Have team members look over each other’s’ shoulders while the other is working.
  • Peer-to-Peer Teaching: Allow for one member of the team to teach or coach each month some of the basics to advanced to the team. Keep it highly focused and ensure that every team member understands.
  • Udemy: Yes, it’s not a part of the normal, but there are a ton of courses on there and if you could possibly allow for team members to spend a little bit of time each day to get some basics going, this is a great way to do it.
  • Just a quick look: This is something I like to do when I’m working on something. I like to call over some of my team and say “Hey, check this out” and proceed to show them some of the basics so that they start to understand. It’s like being Mr. Miyagi and it’s pretty slick because they will soon realize they know more than the basics.

Anyone of the above methods should be a great way to train your teams. Just make sure that you stick to one method to see if it’s actually working for your teams. If it’s not, then it’s time to really switch gears here and pick something that will work. Please remember not everyone learns the same way, so you might have to experiment with your teams.

 

Step 3: Monitoring Your Team’s’ Progress

 

I would have to say that whatever Make sure that you really track things regularly. Try to track things once a month or even by the end of each sprint. Soon you will see something like this happening with your charts.

 

Just as a note: Obviously, a Javascript person would know more HTML/CSS than I’m pointing out here, this is just an example.

 

Month 2:

What month 2 looks like in an agile cross-functional team

Month 3:

What month 3 looks like in an agile developed cross-functional team

Month 4:

month 4 of an agile development cross-functional team

Conclusion

Sure it might not be easy to train a cross-functional team. You will run into reluctances, but you need to always have your buy-in from the team first. It will take time, some may pick up the information must faster than others and that’s okay. The goal is for each team member to really understand each other’s work and really be able to pick up and help to have a successful sprint.

 

Please share this information with your peers and other Agile Leaders! I’m looking forward to your thoughts and comments below.

 

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