Five different ways to train a cross-functional team member

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When more organizations turn to working with the Agile Mindset, more individuals work in cross-functional teams. As we talked about in previous blogs, this requires unique skills and capabilities. In this fourth installment of our blog series (where we elaborate on a wide variety of aspects related to training of people in cross-functional teams) we will show five different ways to train a cross-functional team member.

(This is the fourth blog in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, for links to previous blogs please go to the end of this blog)

There are a lot of different ways to train people, and we couldn’t go into all of them in this blog. Instead, we’re going to highlight five different ways and reflect upon them. Before that, we want to stress two things. First, the type of training must be aligned with the person’s knowledge level. Second, for optimal results, we need to combine different ways to train. It’s not one or the other method, it’s a unique combination for that specific situation.

Self-study

Self-study is theoretical and can be an efficient training tool when an individual wants to learn something. It should be guided by the team member’s own curiosity.

An example of self-study can be reading relevant books, articles, or blogs. Afterwards, reflect upon what was read, preferably in writing. For instance, if you’ve studied test automation strategy, reflect upon what changes in your test automation strategy you see fit after learning more. It’s also great if you can apply your learning for practical use. And in combination, you can explain to your team the most important aspects of what you learned. That’s a good way to boost the team’s learning, as well as remembering the lessons better.

Another example is going through an e-learning course. Most good e-learning courses include practice assignments, but you’ll learn more if you add the reflection part as well.

In all self-study, the team member needs guidance on what to read, what videos to watch, and what e-learning courses to go through. Of course, it’s not wrong to look for additional material, but it’s daunting to find what would help the most. Therefore, guidance is essential to keep up the momentum.

Working as pairs

Working as pairs is practical, and it’s an enormously valuable training tool in a team. It comprises two team members with distinct skill sets, working together to accomplish a task. Example of tasks suitable for working as pairs are programming, testing, and debugging. Both team members learn from each other, both on “hard skills” and on “soft skills”. This training method usually improves the communication within a team as a by-product.

Practical case studies

Practical case studies are very efficient when introducing a new team member. It may take significant time to prepare such case study, but is very useful when they’ve been developed. They comprise an example from within the teams’ subject matter, and the newly trained team member works to accomplish a specific task using the example.

For instance, in a team I worked with, we prepared test cases spanning the entire functionality in the system. Of course, they didn’t test every detail, but the major strokes. New testers in the team used those to learn the system at the same time as they did a regression test.

Mentoring/Coaching

Mentoring and coaching are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they haven’t quite the same meaning. The following is a simple way of explaining the difference for the purpose of this blog, but be aware that people use the terms differently.

Mentoring is the process of a mentor, who is perceived to have a greater expertise in the mentored area, helping a protégé to gain more knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support. It occurs during an extended period of time.

A coach does not have to have a greater expertise in the coached area. Instead, the expertise lies in supporting the learning process. Coaching is the process of a coach helping another person to achieve their personal or professional goal. It’s often limited in time and lasts until the goal is achieved.

Both mentoring and coaching are useful for training in a cross-functional team. The mentor or coach can be part of the same team, but doesn’t have to. Having a mentor or a coach in the same team makes it easier to help on the job. On the other hand, having them not be part of the team sometimes helps to get an outside perspective on things. The purpose of the training should determine which works best for the situation at hand.

Training courses

Training courses are a common way to train, and can be very useful if they are a training course in the subject that suits the team member’s needs. If most of the team needs the training, it’s beneficial to arrange a specific on-site training for the entire team. Perhaps even adjust the training slightly to better suit the team. As soon as possible, the team member should apply what he or she learned. Therefore, it’s best to schedule the training close to when the knowledge and skills are needed.

Five ways to train

In this blog post, we talked about five different ways to train a cross-functional team member: Self-study, Working as pairs, Practical case study, Mentoring/coaching and Training courses. This is not a complete list, but gives ideas on how to start training in a specific case. Multiple ways of training should be combined to suit the needs.

What other types of training do you use to train a team member?

Please comment, let us know your thoughts, ideas and requests and together further extend the view on how to be a good cross-functional team member. This series is a work in progress, so your contribution is highly valued!

This is the fourth blog in the series How to train cross-functional teams, the second blog is here How to be a good cross-functional team member and here’s the third blog, Does every team member need coding skills? 

This blog has been co-authored by Eva Holmquist

Rik Marselis

About

Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands. He has assisted many organizations in improving their IT-processes, in establishing their quality & testing approach, setting up their quality & test organization, and he acted as quality coach, qa-consultant, test manager and quality supervisor. Rik uses his more than 40 years of experience in systems development and quality and testing to bring fit for purpose solutions to our clients. He focuses at three major tasks: * Consultancy on Quality engineering & Testing in the broadest sense (quality & test policy, project startup, process improvement, coaching, second-opinions, etc…) * Develop and give training courses for both novice and experienced testers (Rik is an accredited trainer for TMAP, TPI and ISTQB certification training courses) * Research and development of the quality engineering & testing profession. Rik has contributed to over 20 books on quality and testing, of which 5 as an main author and 5 as project leader. His most recent book in the TMAP body of knowledge is “Quality for DevOps teams”. Rik is a much-appreciated keynote-speaker and workshop-host at conferences (he has presented at conferences in over 15 countries).

More on Rik Marselis.

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