How to Design Teams That Can Fly

agile teams incremental delivery
Succeed With Cross-functional Teams

Create Cross-functional Teams

Leaders and teams are experiencing unprecedented changes and having to make immediate adjustments. In the midst of change, the volume of work and performance expectations remain high.

Teams are often organized around functional silos like operations, training, process, policy, marketing and software development. They find it difficult to deliver with speed. The core challenge functional teams face is that they are not able to deliver the product or service on their own. They need the combined efforts of several teams.

If your teams are organized functionally, you can help them get things to the finish line by eliminating the wait times, communication gaps, and frequent delays. A proven pattern to accomplish this is to form cross-functional teams.

Team Design Considerations

Consider the operational and strategic work the team will be responsible for and answer these team design questions:

  • What skills are needed to define and deliver this work?
  • Which functional areas need to be represented on the team?
  • What is involved in the end-to-end value stream, from understanding the need through delivery?
  • Who are the team’s primary customers and stakeholders?
  • What domain knowledge is necessary to complete the work?

Use the answers to those questions to design cross-functional teams that can deliver end-to-end value.

Team Design Principles

As you design the teams, apply the following design principles for cross-functional teams:

  • Teams have between 3-9 members
  • Team members are allocated (ideally) 100% to the team
  • Teams include people with the skills and knowledge needed to complete the work
  • Dependencies on others outside of the team are minimized
  • The mission and work of the team will provide team members with shared goals and accountability 


Include your staff in the team design discussions. Work together to answer the team design questions. Review and discuss the cross-functional, team design principles. Empower them to come up with the team designs and collaboratively decide on which team designs to implement.


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