True cross-functional product development

Cross-functional” collaboration in (agile) product development means that the whole (complete) product “development” team is participating. Scrum talks about a “development” team without distinction of role. As such, “developer” means any competence or skill required to create the product or service, not limited to “programming” (writing code).

Lean UX heavily promotes the whole product development team participating during the complete product development cycle from the very beginning. The entire team approach aims to create a shared understanding with everyone (all team roles) from the start and to minimize any waste originating from working in sub-teams or silos (hand-overs, intermediate deliverables, re-discussing the same topic with people who didn’t participate, etc.).

Shared understanding
Shared understanding

True agile teams (feature teams) are product-oriented and can implement product features end to end, creating value pieces with every item done. Collaboration with all team members is an excellent source of creativity, new ideas and innovation. This kind of cross-functional collaboration is demanding: people are expected to think outside their box, participate in work outside their main domain, and help create that necessary shared understanding to deliver value within an iteration.

Teams working in a phased approach (the so-called staggered sprints) face several worries – this should not be accepted as standard, and such teams should strive for a better working method. A phased approach is some work done in a sprint before the “development” sprint (or even worse, acceptance or testing after the” development” sprint).

Staggered sprints
Staggered sprints

The challenges with this phased approach are:

  • Sprints become out of sync
  • Iteration without agility
  • Lack of ownership amongst the developers
  • Groupthink
  • Waste (hand-overs, intermediate deliverables, etc)

The (single) (proper) Scrum team approach has numerous benefits:

  • Understanding of concepts and users’ needs amongst all team members
  • Improved time to deliver (precondition is to deliver chunks of value you are able to implement within a sprint)
  • Less re-work, less waste
  • Improved definition of done
  • Sense of ownership amongst all team members

And so, we urge you to re-consider any extensive upfront work (before “construction”) and try to create shared understandings with the whole team. That shared understanding will lead to a willingness to collaborate within the same sprint truly. You foresee a regular cadence of user tests in the Lean UX approach. The aim is to create a “test everything” culture: we test what’s available, and given the users’ feedback, we improve (we iterate).

Real sprints
Real sprints