Cross functional teams or Agile with an A

Here is an interesting article I saw from Steve Denning:

http://www.stevedenning.com/High-Performance-Teams/cross-functional-teams.aspx

It makes some good points that are highly relevant to Agile development teams.  However it contains one very dangerous one too.

Steve talks about the importance of actually listening to diverse views.  We use this in agile projects when we estimate, plan, design and build.

He then talks about the problem with some teams of business experts who all have MBAs and are all geniuses.  The problem he describes is that these people are aware of the imortance of diverse opinions and are good a stakeholder analysis.  These people then go and talk to stakeholders … and all seems to be going well.

Unfortunately because these business MBA types are so smart they are experts and they are talking to less informed people with far less knowledge and expertise.  So obviously they ignore those opinions and rely on their own intellect.

But what is the point of all this diverse opinion if we ignore all those that are wrong (don’t agree with us) or are not based on the vast expertise we have built up (ie are diverse and based on different experiences)?

Its a great article to read for this and several other tips.  However there is one danger.  Steve mentions that those guys in IT are sometimes getting it right on agile projects … so go and look at what they are doing.

Sadly this might mean some of the business guys come to your team this week and look at the cool Agile things you are doing … including capturing diverse views.

This would be great, except that so many of our agile teams are actually more focussed on making sure we spell agile with a capital A than listening to the diverse views from our team and our internal customers (or as we sometimes refer to it … listending to all that noise from those ignorant people who dont even know what XP is).

So at least try and fake it if some business guys come to your project to learn.  We can stay ignorant if we want to, but at least the rest of the world can move on without us … so we are not doing any actual harm.

Or … you can even try actually listening (and that means considering, not just correcting) the diverse views around the team.

Even pre-agile there was a saying ….

The real difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man will learn new wisdom, even from the fool.  But the fool will not learn new wisdom, even from the wise man.

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About James King

I coach organisations in how to better make use of the untapped talent they have in their people and to explore new ways of understanding and solving new and old problems I live in Sydney with my wife and daughter and have no real hobbies beyond the usual boring ones of reading, writing and watching tv.
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