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Improve cross-functionality within the Scrum Team

Ideally, a Scrum Team has all the skills it needs to deliver a valuable product Increment. However, in practice, this happens rarely. Developing complex products for a complex world requires skills that even highly cross-skilled teams will lack at times. For instance, if they have questions about legal issues or security vulnerabilities, chances are the team needs outside help.

Scrum Teams can use a variety of strategies to help improve their cross-functional skills:

  • Form highly cross-functional teams from the start. When Scrum Teams form, ideally with team members self-selecting to join, they should consider what skills will be needed. Considering Product Goals and the underlying technologies under consideration will help them decide what skills they need and which potential team members should join the team.  
  • Cross-train team members in commonly needed skills. Even when Scrum Teams have highly cross-functional team members, they may face a situation in which specific expertise needed more broadly across the team is only possessed by one or a few team members. Pairing these people with other team members to work together helps to build needed skills in other team members. Continuous intra-team coaching and mentoring supports ongoing skill development and breaks down role boundaries.  
  • Augment team skills with no-wait assistance, as needed. Sometimes, a team will need specialized skills only occasionally, and as a result,  they choose not to develop the skill within the team. These skills may also take a long time to develop and acquire making team cross-training and mentoring insufficient. In such cases, the organization needs to devise ways to make individuals  with the right skills available when the team needs assistance. Teams can typically anticipate their needs during Sprint Planning, and, often, even before. Making these needs transparent can help the organization provide the team with the help it needs.

    The most important thing is for the organization to respond to the team’s needs without forcing the team to wait. The organization can find this challenging, since the people with the scarce skills are often highly paid and in high demand. Keeping enough of them on staff, or at least available on demand, can be expensive, and can feel wrong if the specialists are waiting around a lot. The organization needs to balance this cost against the cost of having a whole Scrum Team stuck waiting for someone to become available to help them.

Improving decision-making authority, the cross-functionality within a Scrum Team and the access they have to specialized skills reduces delays and helps them be more effective at delivering value.



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There are many reasons why Scrum Teams struggle to deliver value. To be more effective, Scrum Teams should better understand customer needs, improve their cross-functionality, be empowered to make decisions, improve their ability to focus, and increase their feedback cycles.