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11 pro tips for happy cross-functional teams

11 pro tips for happy cross-functional teams

At Marketing Factory everyone is working in crossfunctional teams – in order to break down work silos and increase collaboration and co-learning. After several years of working in these teams, Luisa and Christian presented their most valuable learnings on how to make and keep your crossfunctional teams happy at WebCamp Venlo 2023!


March 11, 2023

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  1. AGENDA What we want to talk about today SHORT INTRODUCTION

    Our former way of working Why we needed to change Our current way of working 11 PRO TIPS FOR HAPPY CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS Our tips and how to eliminate the most obvious problems DISCUSSION
  2. SHORT INTRODUCTION Who are we? Christian Spoo (34) • Senior

    Developer @ Marketing Factory • develops, designs architectures for customer projects, maintains systems • professionally interested in low-level hardware / OS-related topics • in his private life he likes playing ninepins and enjoys over-engineering his home @luisasofie_xoxo Follow us on @teh_plague @mfc_dus Luisa Faßbender (26) • Senior Project Manager @ Marketing Factory • manages several customer projects, takes care of corporate channels • Marketing & Communications Masters’ student • TYPO3 Marketing Team Lead since 2019 • in her private life she enjoys going to the gym, cooking and visiting festivals
  3. SHORT INTRODUCTION Where do we work? • Est. in 1996

    • Based in Düsseldorf • Full Service Digital Agency • Focused on TYPO3, Shopware and Symfony • 20 employees • 50% female quota • TYPO3 Association Gold Member • Shopware Business Partner
  4. OUR FORMER WAY OF WORKING How did we work in

    the past? “Agile” project management (<2020) • employee resources were collected on a weekly basis • time spend in meetings and on open tasks was deducted • additional 30% for daily business tasks was also deducted • the remaining time got booked with a plethora of tasks • developers provided estimations on tickets • project managers had weekly meetings to plan tasks ➔ We were essentially one “big team” that comprised the entire company staff ➔ Additionally separated into departments (DEV, PM etc.)
  5. THAT NEEDED TO CHANGE because, well … obviously it had

    to. So what did we do? • sat down with the entire company for a three-day-workshop and re-evaluated our current way of working. • included an external consultant to help us find weaknesses in our current status quo. • focussed on including more Beta Codex approaches into our structure. • restructured the entire company into three independent teams. … and had some fun along the way :-)
  6. OUR CURRENT WAY OF WORKING agile, cross-functional project teams •

    Three dedicated teams covering different customer projects with different focuses. • Similar team structures with slight variations depending on the customers and their requirements. • An employee can be borrowed between teams if their expertise is needed. Project manager 1 Team Phoenix Project manager 2 Developer 2 Developer 1 Developer 3 Developer 4 Team Pegasus Backend 1 Backend 2 CTO CEO / PM Team Sphinx Project manager 1 Developer 1 CEO / Developer 2 Project manager 2
  7. • Not being able to say anything at all about

    something doesn’t look professional (especially) in a customer meeting. • Everyone on the team needs at least enough knowledge of all topics to at least have a say and ideally be able to advise. • Documentation: As short as possible, as much as necessary. In the end, no one reads through long documents but the most important features and functionalities should be documented. • Distribute knowledge within the team to minimize the truck factor and enable better customer consulting. “RTFM” – “Did so – didn’t find anything helpful.” “No, sorry, I got no idea about that. I’ll have to ask someone else first.” PRO TIP NO. 1: DEFEATING THE TRUCK-FACTOR aka. a good documentation is half the battle “ X always used to do this – no idea, how.”
  8. We know, but that’s not our point. Then what is?

    • The most important information should be easily and quickly accessible to everyone. • Offer help for self-help, instead of fine-grained step-by-step instructions. • Build a general understanding of the project among those involved and promote knowledge building. • Move away from departmental or silo thinking towards skill-based work. • Keep your team productive and cope with both sick people and employee turnover. But you can't expect every position to be double staffed just in case, can you? That's just not feasible! PRO TIP NO. 1: DEFEATING THE TRUCK-FACTOR aka. a good documentation is half the battle
  9. PRO TIP NO. 2: OPEN COMMUNICATION aka. honesty is key

    “Yeah, no problem. I’ll totally get that done today.” “Yeah, I wanted to get that done this week.” “Sure, I’ll do that until friday for sure.” • False promises to "appease" team members or customers do not help anybody. • Deadlines should be met, but it is not the end of the world, if they are not. (obviously only with good reasons) • If delays are looming, that's fine. Just communicate them early enough so the team can relent and support. ◦ Delays can be caused due to a lot of unforeseen reasons and there’s no general problem in that. • Talk to each other and don't withdraw out of shame or fear of consequences.
  10. PRO TIP NO. 2: OPEN COMMUNICATION aka. honesty is key

    How to communicate instead? Here are some examples: “I have a lot on my list today, is it sufficient to finish this task until friday?” “If your ticket has priority, would you help me re-evaluate the priority of my other current tasks?” “This is just not doable until friday. Can we talk about how to solve this together?” “I know I agreed to pick up this task, but I just can’t make it work in time. Can someone else please take over?” • Communicate early enough • Be honest and open • Express your needs clearly • Ask for help if you need it • Support your colleagues

    take off the blinders “That’s none of my business.” “Just ask X, he's been doing this for years.” “No, I've never done that before. I'd have to read up on it first.” • You will always encounter topics that you do not yet know. However, ostrich-like behaviour rarely helps. • The expert you need may not be available at the moment. So: Do you want to wait and see or try it yourself and eliminate silos?

    take off the blinders “I’ve never done this before, can’t you just do it?” “Why don’t you give it a try first – I’m confident you can do this.” “Okay, I’ll give it a try. Can I ask you for support in case I get stuck somewhere?” “No.”
  13. PRO TIP NO. 4: KNOW YOUR LIMITS, but… .. dare

    to overcome them. • Not having an answer sometimes is fine. We’re humans, not machines. • But: Try to be helpful (to your customer or your colleagues) and don’t just shrug it off. • No one likes to backpedal in meetings, but technical dead ends do happen in practice. • Consciously see these dead ends as an opportunity to further your education, rather than as a faux pas. • Everyone profits from a wider range of knowledge. “_shrug_ I don’t know.” “Can’t you present this to the customer? I don’t like presentations.” “This doesn’t fall within my scope of work. ” “(...) rather not, I’ll make a fool out of myself.”
  14. PRO TIP NO. 4: KNOW YOUR LIMITS, but… .. dare

    to overcome them. • Dare to explore new topics and overcome your personal fears. • You will make a fool out of yourself sometimes anyways. • Broadening your personal and professional horizon will make you a better consultant. “I will make sure to figure this out as soon as possible and get back to you on a short notice.” And if you miss, you miss. (True to the motto "Trial & Error"). “Just to let you know: This is my first time holding a talk and I’m nervous, so please bare with me.”
  15. PRO TIP NO. 5: SHOW EMPATHY for your colleagues “I've

    already explained this 5 times, are you stupid?” “You should really know that by now.” • In cross-functional teams, it's not just different skills that come together, but also different personalities. • Just because something is obvious or simple for you personally doesn't mean that your other teammates automatically know what you're talking about right away. • Especially when it comes to technical topics, it's important to pick up the other team members and give them a certain basic understanding. • Of course, there still has to be a certain limit, and tact is required here.

    is not always better • Nobody needs micro-management. We’re not in Kindergarten and we want our team to be content. ◦ Micromanagement is one of the most pressing reasons why employees switch companies. • Communicate your needs and wishes clearly and openly to your team. – Set expectations right. • Find your working mode. • A good team is built on trust. • Every team member is given the benefit of the doubt; no one new has to earn it first. "Have you seen what X booked today from 3:45pm-4:03pm?!" “I've slacked you almost an hour ago - why are you only answering now?” “I expect a detailed status update every two hours!”

    JOB expertise over curriculum • Titles, positions, resumes and degrees have no place in a team of equals. • Also: an expert is someone who holds expertise in a field, not someone who has been with the company the longest. • Equality in the team instead of rigid hierarchies. “But I am the managing director here.” “Oh, what do you know. You're just an intern.”
  18. PRO TIP NO. 8: SUPPORT CHANGE aka. let go of

    the reins “I would love to take the training, but the boss said no.” “Project managers do not need an IDE.” “You're a developer, if you want to take a leadership seminar, pay for it yourself and do it on your own time.” • If an employee wants to develop personally or professionally, this should be supported by the team and not prevented. • The team and the company benefit from the further training of their employees and should not put a stop to this - unless it is completely outside the company. “We've always done it that way.”

    the phone chain • Bring together the right people for the job. • No project is fun if your own developer first has to ask the project manager, who then follows up with the customer's project manager two days later and the customer then gets an inquiry from his IT contact two weeks later. “I'll have to ask X first.” “I have to get that approved first....” “I'm not doing that now, I don't know if that's been offered yet.”
  20. • The result should be presented to the customer as

    a joint success, and accordingly everyone is responsible for the success or failure. • There should be no apportioning of blame, but rather solution-oriented work. ◦ Nevertheless, there are of course individual achievements and contributions to the overall result. ◦ Within the team, it should still be known who has made which contribution. PRO TIP NO. 10: ALL BEAR RESPONSIBILITY aka. one for all and all for one
  21. PRO TIP NO. 10: ALL BEAR RESPONSIBILITY aka. one for

    all and all for one • Each team member bears responsibility for the project and must not just rely on "the others will get it done" ("TEAM - Toll, ein anderer macht’s” - roughly “great, someone else will do it"). • Stronger ones pull the "weaker ones" along; the "weaker ones" learn from the stronger ones. • Working together for project success - not against each other for intrigue.
  22. PRO TIP NO. 11: BE FLEXIBLE aka. sometimes change can

    be good, too. • The team can and should change with time: ◦ New requirements demand new team members, while old ones may no longer be needed and would be better placed in other projects. • The team isn’t left completely alone, but continues to be a part of the company and can get help and support from other teams. ◦ Even teams with allrounders can run into problems and could potentially need support from others.