In level two, we have to confront the reality that team-building in the real world is nowhere near as simple as placing any two flat edges together. The skills these sides represent need to be compatible, and the shape formed by the entire team needs to fit into a frame representing project requirements. This is where the idea of adjacent skill sets becomes really important.
Bear with me, here: Let’s say that each skill is color-coded. Maybe QA is red, front-end automation is a lighter red, and TestRail is almost pink. So an experienced QA Octagon will have a side in each of these colors. Let’s also say we have to follow a complex set of color-matching guidelines that dictate which sides can fit together. For example, any shade of QA red might match to itself or any of the darker shades of development green. Development green also matches to itself or to DevOps yellow. And project management blue matches to everything. But you can only advance to the next level if you have three red to red matches, two red to green matches, seven green to green matches, two green or red to yellow matches, and all colors touch blue at least once.
We’re now talking about the kind of app you rage delete at level five because you’re never getting any further, but it proves the point. The real power of a multifunctional team doesn’t come from having an army of Jacks-of-all-trades who can slip into any role on any team and execute with the same level of talent and enthusiasm—it comes from having options. Large colorful polygons are going to be easier to fit together than triangles that all tend to greens and blues, in the same way that a concert pianist who works in healthcare and enjoys boxing and crocheting will probably make an appealing partner.
“The real power of a multifunctional team doesn’t come from having an army of Jacks-of-all-trades who can slip into any role on any team and execute with the same level of talent and enthusiasm—it comes from having options.”
Even for a curious, eager, open-minded team, perfect rainbows will be the exception rather than the rule, but in a truly multi-functional environment, success hinges on the team rather than the individual. A front-end developer who only does front-end development with other front-end developers is going to have a deeply specific view of the way a project works and how he’s expected to work within a project team. Comparatively, a front-end dev with UX experience might find herself at a loss to even describe a “typical” project team. Her role becomes a way of relating to other team members in service of a common goal.