When looking to speed up production times, cross-functional teams are the superior structure.
By BreakFree Solutions Staff
Many use the terms cross-functional and multi-functional interchangeably, but there is an essential distinction between the two. Cross-functional teams have members from different departments or disciplines who work together to achieve a common goal. On the other hand, multi-functional teams have multiple roles and responsibilities within a single department or field.
So which is better? In the world of technology, where you need to quickly get a product or service out the door, a cross-functional team is your best bet. This is why at BreakFree, we create cross-functional teams as force multipliers to drive results for our client's goals.
What's the Difference Between Cross-Functional and Multi-Functional?
Individual team members possess expert knowledge in one area and generalized expertise elsewhere. Team members can do any generalized work and expert work within their specialty.
The team as a whole is multidisciplinary with individual skill silos. Individual team members possess specialized knowledge only. Team members can only do work that lies within their specialty.
Based on the team makeup, you can see how XF teams allow you to move faster. With everyone working together, there are no silos or waiting for information to be passed back and forth between departments. You can quickly take an idea from concept to reality without hitting walls based on who can do what.
Items from the product backlog (the total collection of work to be completed) are assigned based on the priority of the product backlog item (PBI). Any team member can work on any PBI, so PBIs are conducted in order of importance to the business—not based on who's allowed to do something.
PBI assignment is based upon the skill requirements of PBI + specific team member(s) with those skills. PBIs are therefore completed based upon skill bandwidth and not necessarily in priority.
When completing work is based on the priority of what needs to be done, without waiting for someone with that skill and considering their bandwidth, it's clear to see how team members are empowered to perform faster.
On a multi-functional team, you're more likely to see bottlenecks form. On an XF team, jams are mitigated easier by leveraging expert labor for expert tasks. Generalization means that non-expert PBIs can be picked up by any team member, freeing up expert labor for expert tasks.
Team members work together more often because they're completing PBIs in priority order.
Team members tend to work and group by specialty.
On an XF team where team members work more closely together, you see the benefits of having greater transparency and insight into each others' work and thought processes. This team dynamic creates a natural skill-sharing environment where members gain knowledge from one another.
If you are prioritizing production speed, XF teams are the superior formation. So why do we see so many organizations operating in a multi-functional manner?
It likely comes down to cost and effort. Creating an XF team is relatively tricky, with a higher upfront cost. However, the benefit, in the long run, is well worth it. A non-XF team is often at the root of productivity issues and may be why businesses do not realize their goals.
Are you looking to become more XF? We partner with organizations to help them create cross-functional teams and can do this for your organization.