Agile PM Process Grid–7.3 Cross-Functional Team Formation

In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he creates an “agile project management process grid” which describes 87 processes used in agile project management.   These processes are divided into five process groups (Initiate, Plan, Iterate, Control, and Close), which are analogous to the five process groups in traditional project management, and seven knowledge areas which can be mapped, more or less, onto the ten knowledge areas in traditional project management.

I’m now about to discuss a block of three processes that are in the continuous improvement knowledge area that are carried out in the planning phase.   The second of these processes is 7.3 Cross-Functional Team Formation.

Teams are self-organizing, which means that each individual team member needed to bring something to the table in terms of skills and subject-matter expertise.   But in order to make sure the table (to continue the metaphor) is a stable working environment, the members have to bring a flexible attitude towards how it will self-organize.

If you need to work outside your area of expertise or “comfort zone”, this should be embraced by other members of the team when it helps ensure meeting the iteration goal.

This creates challenges in some ways, because certain organizations use their human resource departments to create more definitive boundaries between roles such as business analyst, developer, tester, etc., whereas the cross-functional team in agile often blurs those boundaries in practice.    The blurring of the lines between roles helps the agile team, but can come in conflict with the organization’s wish to create more clearly definable hiring and compensation guidelines.

So the creation of cross-functional team in agile is a worthwhile goal, but it is important for the scrum master to know that it can come into conflict with an organization culture that prefers to put the various roles in silos.

The last of the three processes in the Continuous Improvement knowledge area is 7.3 Identify Metrics, which is discussed in the next post.



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