Lately, I have been seen myself in troubles when it comes to explain the importance of being a cross-functional team, being cross-functional does not mean you know how to do everything, and you end up not being good at anything, being specialist of Front-End, Back-End, QA, Data Bases… is just not possible and unfortunately, this is what many people think is to be cross-functional, which from my point of view, it is not.
Here is my personal example of a cross-functional restaurant, that helped me to share the message I want.
First of all, the reason of why I chose a restaurant is because I think it is pretty exigent, there are tips involved, you get the money quick, there is not 30 days period where you can pay and stuff like that, immediate customer satisfaction, and no big room for failures if you are on Saturday night at 21 pm.
Imagine the following staff SetUp.
- 1 chef.
- 1 chef assistant.
- 2 waiters serving the food and attending tables.
- 1 waiter being behind the bar.
The only specialist here that would be very hard to replace is the chef due the high set of skills and experience needed.
If I would be the owner I would have developed a training plan regardless the employee and the position, where new employees would have to experience what is to be a waiter, waiter behind the bar and chef assistant, and the reason is because I would like to have a resilence team, a team able to adapt to a complicated situations.
Sorry for the drawing… not really on my set of skills!
Now imagine the following situation, it’s Saturday night, 21pm, restuarant is full of people, some tables have already their food and others not yet.
The chef assistant, unfortunately, fell to the ground and broke some plates and glasses, right away he starts cleaning the mess, if he does not clean is going to be dangerous!
This accident will have some consequences, not only the obvious ones, the collateral ones.
- Food will start queue as the chef assistant cannot prepare them for the output tray.
- The chef will stress because the chef assistant won’t be available for at least 15/20 minutes.
- Our delays in the food could have a negative impact on the customer, therefore no tips and bad customer satisfaction.
Given the described situation, we have 2 options.
- We leave everything as it is, we let the queue happen in the kitchen, but everyone will continue working in what are they supposed to be working on, waiters attending tables, and waiter behind the bar serving drinks, etc.
- One of the waiters will become chef assistant while the real chef assistant is busy cleaning the mess, the waiter will be ready to be chef assistant because the owner thought that this situation could happen, so the waiters were trained for it.
Benefits of the second option.
- We do not let the queue happen, we could still have the queue but not the same as if we would not have chef assistant.
- The risk of not having tips decreases, also the bad customer satisfaction.
- At a personal level, the restaurant staff will really feel they are one team, and I’m sure they will be super proud of how they overcame the situation togteher.
After 15/20 minutes the chef asistant is back so he can continue working as it was, and the waiter is back to the restaurant!
This is my vision of cross-functionality, is not that everyone is able to have 10 different specialties, being a cross-functional team is the ability to adapt to certain situations where we have to help each other independently of the skills needed. This has cost, the skills need to be trained in order to make it happen, at the end, being Agile means we have to be able to adapt to any situation, this is of course only 1 situation, but a situation that helped me to explain what it means to be cross-functional.