When you’re working on a scrum team the most important aspect of the team is the results that team achieves. The client is not going to care whether or not the project manager ended up mopping the floor before the day was over. Equally, it will not matter if the person whose “role” declared they should mop the floors, ended up making an important phone call. This is the idea of cross-functionality. A team who as individuals can see the goal, know what needs to occur to achieve that goal, and is not afraid to step up and fill in gaps when needed. The difficulty comes in when team members start to get insulted, or even miffed because they feel they are doing tasks not assigned to their role. They feel like they are having to do someone else’s job. You’ve heard this complaint before, I’m sure, the idea that “I do not have time to do what I was brought on to accomplish because I spend so much time filling in for so-in-so”. Now, ultimately these complaints may have some merit, so I don’t mean to discredit any one complaint, but rather to draw your attention to something greater. The purpose.
When you are working on a team—and sports teams really are a great example of this—when the ultimate goal is winning the game, you don’t need to waste time being angry because the receiver and the lineman may have to trade roles in given situations. The same is true for the teams formed in corporate environments as well. We need to be flexible when it comes to performing our tasks within a team. However, much like a liberal arts education, this kind of well-rounded-ness has to be taught. Typically, we have the “Do what you do, adn do it well” mentality. Which is awesome when you are working by yourself. If, however, you want to be a part of a team, you may have to learn how to do all things to the best of your ability, even if it isn’t what you were “assigned”. Simultaneously, leaders of these teams need to be conscious of the fact that team members may be called upon to stretch their proverbial legs a little when it comes to achieving the ultimate goals. Since undoubtedly this kind of stretching takes many people out of their comfort zone, it will rest with the PM to make sure the team gets a solid acknowledgment of their job-role muscle building exercises. Say thank you, folks! When someone fills in for you, be grateful. When you have to step up for someone else, do it willingly. Someone else’s success counts for your success, so be excited for others, and help out. Put on your little league hat, and give yourself a good strong “take on for the team, Johnny”.
As a side note to PMs, be aware of the situation as a whole, and for those few times when the complaints are truly warranted, handle them with respect and honesty. But that, dear reader, is a topic for another article some other day.