How to achieve substitutability if the team is not cross-functional (operation team)?

Currently in my Operation team, there are 3 sub-teams, each consisting of 2-3 people, which are handling different topics. Also there is a change manager and incident manager. How to achieve substitutability if the team is not cross-functional? Is mirroring work the way to achieve cross-functionality at least in a sub team?

Thank you for hints.

  • 1
    Do you really have a team? Or do you really have three teams? It may not be beneficial to think of your organization as "1 team with 3 sub-teams", but instead think of them as "3 teams". Changing how you think about the structure could also change how you think about interactions and behaviors and what it means to be cross-functional.
    – Thomas Owens
    Nov 29, 2023 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


Without having more context, here is a suggestion for how to approach this (this only works if the team appreciates documentation, and if nobody is trying to hold you hostage):

  1. Ask each team to document all repeatable tasks (not one-off), and categorize the one-offs
  2. Starting with the most frequently occurring, ask team members to document the process, with one team member drafting initial docs, and another executing the docs the next time and updating as needed).
  3. Adopt this as "living documentation" that needs to be maintained as changes occur.
  4. If your team interests and career trajectories support it, you could start slowly switching up teams once the bulk of that documentation is created.

Hopefully you will have a way to track MTTR or at least are able to track velocity. You can expect a short-term productivity hit if you take this route, but it is a great way to align with individual career goals and interests if you do it right. And the end result would have whatever cross-functionality you need. Documentation is king, though.


If it were me, I would ask the team. "Hey, what do y'all think is the best way to do this? what would work best?"

Different people & teams have different approaches to training. It sounds like you're in a pretty niche situation & will have to roll your own anyway, so why not ask them how they'd like to do it?

You might have better luck in a forum devoted to Operations than to PM. Good luck!

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