Why is a multi-skilled team better than individual teams of specialists?
A multi-skilled team also known as cross function team consists of experts from different functions across various levels and skillsets who work towards accomplishing a common goal.
Working as multi-skilled team the individuals behave as ONE team and think collectively and collaborate creatively to accomplish the goal. This team love to self-direct and self-manage themselves, since each individual may bring different perspective and different solutions for potential challenges to a given task. This team can easily multi task because of the nature of multiple skills that exist within this team. The team makes their own rules and decisions with the help of a facilitator. Multi-skilled team is often compared to board of directors of a company, which is group of individuals with various backgrounds and disciplines are brought in order to help the organization or address various challenges.
Of late, multi-skilled teams become very popular, because of their ability to increase productivity by reducing the time to market of a new product development, their area of influence in an organization because they constantly engage with multiple communities of practice and their willingness to coordinate and integrate with various stakeholders within an organization.
Multi-skilled teams differ than individual teams of specialists in several ways:
- The individuals in multi-skilled teams are tagged to their respective business unit, but they perform in a different team, where they don’t have to compete with their peers who do the same job function.
- The team members trust and motivate each other work with a sense of urgency for making a positive impact.
- A leader who is a good facilitator and who can influence the team in a positive ways is need for multi-skilled team to demonstrate continuous improvement
- The team acts with a degree of freedom and have both authority and accountability for the results they produce.
- Management provide outside support to this team by providing the resources, guidance, direction and informal feedback as needed.
- Open communication exists within the multi-skilled teams to establish an atmosphere of transparency.
- Multi-skilled teams may eliminate the phase wise development approach and increases the focus on specific work item(s).
- Multi-skilled teams also minimize the need to blame different groups in the organization, since this team consist the necessary skills to build the product increment from end-to-end.
- Multi-skilled teams respond quickly to changing market and business needs than their individual counterparts.
- Cross learning is one key advantage of forming multi-skilled teams; since this team contains individuals with various specializations. They learn together, play together, win together and fail together.
- Multi-skilled teams often display their progress through big visible information radiators in the organization.
There are various challenges in setting up new multi-skilled teams
- Team members may be still carry their traditional mindsets even they become part of the cross functional teams.
- The team members may be halfhearted to take up additional responsibilities that re needed as a part of being multi-skilled team
- Sometimes, it is difficult to manage some immature individuals who cannot work without direct supervision, manager their performance appraisals and motivate the people.
- Everyone in the team should have Team member first attitude and they should be willing to perform outside their specialization areas to accomplish the end goal.
- Multi-skilled teams often have to deal with conflicts due to various differences of opinions, but with effective facilitator in place, these conflicts can be subdued.
- There are apprehensions that, there is some limited growth in cross functional team compared to individual groups.
A leadership role in setting up cross functional team will be some of the following
- Setting the board objectives before the team is formed.
- Define collective roles and responsibilities
- Establish team principles so that the multi-skilled team set their own ways of working
- Deploy the right resources and logistics to support a multi-skilled team
- Try to establish channels of continuous improvement