More and more, organizations today turn to working with the Agile Mindset. This means that we as individuals work in cross-functional teams. This may seem like a trivial change, but in reality it’s not.
Focus on user value
In order to succeed, the whole team needs to focus on delivering user value. No longer can any team member declare “this is not my responsibility” and let someone else fix the problem. To deliver business value with the right quality at the right moment is the responsibility of the whole team, not of any individual. This means that sometimes instead of focusing on what you perceive as your task, you need to help out a teammate so you can all succeed as a team.
To be a good member in a cross-functional team, you need to be curious. This is because you must want to learn more about the users and their needs every day. But also, you must be curious about other disciplines in your team, that all combined deliver value. Of course, you need your own specific knowledge and experience. Without it the team cannot deliver as planned. But on top of that you need to be interested and understand the expertise of other team members to some level. You’re not going to be able to learn that if you’re not curious. Therefore, curiosity is important in a cross-functional team.
When working in any team, you need to be unpretentious. Be modest about the part you play and focus on what needs to be done to deliver value. Help your teammates and communicate clearly. When the result is delivered as planned, the whole team gets the credit.
In a cross-functional team, you work together. Sometimes the whole team works on a task (in a mobbing session). Sometimes a smaller portion of the team collaborates, such as in pairs. And sometimes you work alone on a specific task. Therefore, team members need the skill and capability of team work to be able to function in a good way. This may seem self-evident, but teamwork requires great communication skills. If you can’t communicate with each other, the team will not succeed.
In a cross-functional team it’s not sufficient to be an expert in your own area, you need to have a broader view. Otherwise, it’s harder to communicate and understand what needs to be done to properly collaborate towards a goal. This does not mean that you must be able to do everything a teammate can do. The different team members have deep knowledge and experience in at least one specific area, complemented by a broad (but shallower) knowledge of other expertise needed in the team. In a cross-functional team you also have additional responsibilities that demand specific skills and capabilities. Quality engineering is a great example of this, because everyone on the team is taking part in it. Other examples may depend on the purpose of the team. Some examples of areas that many team members need to know more about are configuration management, build processes and tools.
A good team member
So, in today’s high-performance IT delivery, to be a good team member in a cross-functional team, there is a wide range of skills and capabilities needed. You need to focus on business value and do what is necessary to achieve it. If you aren’t curious, you won’t learn what you need in order to be a good team member. Working in a cross-functional team demands constant learning. That’s really hard to do without curiosity. You also need to be unpretentious and good at teamwork. And last, you need a broad knowledge and view. Both because you actually have additional responsibilities, and because it’s necessary to know more about your teammates expertise to work together efficiently and effectively.
This is how we see what is needed in a cross-functional team. In your opinion, have we missed anything? Or do you think something we mentioned isn’t necessary? Please comment, let us know your thoughts, ideas and requests and together further extend the view on how to be a good cross-functional team member. This series is a work in progress, so your contribution is highly valued!
This blogpost has been co-authored by Rik Marselis.
PS Interested in the topic? This is the second blogpost in the series on cross-functional teams. Read the first blogpost: "3 new training needs for people in cross-functional teams"