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This year one of the terms we are hearing more and amore about is the T-shaped teams. One of the most relevant topics to modern companies across all industries is how to foster innovation and best practices in software development while maintaining attractiveness to the market and retaining your team. Today, I will be discussing T-shaped teams benefits and how you can organize your team to ship products faster and keep know-how shared within the organization.
What are T-shaped teams ?
The term T-shaped team was popularised a couple of years ago by Tim Brown, the CEO of the IDEO, a California design firm known for its innovative practices. The concept of T-shaped team describes the abilities of a person or a team in the workforce. The vertical bar on the letter T represents the depth of related hard skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is about soft skills and the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.
For example, companies started to focus on having full stack engineers – someone capable of addressing a bigger part of the system – knowledge in frontend and backend development all the way to the continuous integration and deployment of those solutions.
Companies need people who are adaptable, who can think outside their own specialisation bubble and mould their approach as a business evolves. For example, our Apiumhub T-shaped team combines broad general software development knowledge in Frontend, Backend, DevOps, iOS and Android with a specialized software architecture focus.
Think about it like a hospital. In a hospital, you have generalists who are able to see and work with a vast array of patients and illnesses, but you also have specialists who tend to people with heart diseases. In a T-shaped team, you combine the broad skills and knowledge of the hospital generalist, and the focused efforts of a specialist, into one team or a person.
Developing into a T-shaped team or a T-shaped person is an important accomplishment. This saves a company time and money.
It is important to highlight that in Apiumhub we believe that the vertical deep specialist is critical, this is why actually clients come to us, but the vertical aspect allows us to communicate better with other teams and this is why clients stay with us for years.
T-shaped teams characteristics
The T-shaped team possesses an interesting variety of characteristics. Here are a few:
- Enthusiastic: Love to learn, and are enthusiastic about acquiring new skills or abilities.
- Collaborative: T-shaped team members possess a breadth of knowledge across disciplines and are skilled at working with different types of people to solve problems.
- Empathetic: T-shaped team members can see and relate to the point-of-view of others.
- Visionary: because they possess a wide range of skills and knowledge, can see into the future of a project and how everything can come together.
- Open-minded: T-shaped team members are eager to listen to the ideas and perspectives of others.
T-shaped teams benefits
Employing T-shaped professionals is beneficial to a company. With their core skills and ability to learn things quickly, T-shaped teams excel in their main responsibilities but they can also perform other tasks effectively. In such a way, they contribute to the growth of the business as a whole. Specifically, they offer the following advantages:
T-shaped teams are flexible enough to take on new tasks and help other members on their team to make sure that the overall goals and objectives are met.
By learning each others’ skills, T-shaped teams also learn each others’ domain-specific language. This helps teams communicate more effectively and understand the situation from different perspectives. T-shaped individuals are able to deal with other people and understand their needs as a whole, because of their ability to discuss matters across the entire company. They understand the ways other people work and the reasons for doing things in a certain way.
“By learning each others’ skills, we also learn each others’ domain-specific language. This helps us communicate more effectively as we have more understanding of different perspectives.” — Jason Yip
One of the key things that sets the T-shaped team members apart from others is empathy. This is not only good for company morale; it is also more likely to result in a person getting involved in helping another to the extent they are willing to explore another discipline. For organisations that are constantly requiring upskilling, T-shaped teams are more likely to be multi-disciplinary, which means more skills to deploy according to your needs.
- Hard and soft skills
In addition to hard skills, such as programming skills, T-shaped teams also possess soft skills such as critical thinking, making them a complete package.
- They see the bigger picture
T-shaped people pull insights and inputs from all members of the team to piece together a view of the future. They aren’t just beholden to one competency, and so they’re able to look beyond one input and consider other influential factors. Their perspective is much wider than someone who’s responsible for deep expertise in only one service area.
- Good leaders
Because a T-shaped team members boast strong soft skills – attributes like collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and more – they also make good leaders.
A team needs to strike a balance of skill sets to maximize effectiveness. Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to team organizational approach. But, it’s important to acknowledge the vision, strategy, and soft skills that a T-shaped person brings to a company. Encouraging a culture of continuous learning and open communication supports the development of T-shaped people. We believe that companies should acknowledge each individual’s expertise, but also push them to try new things and regularly interact with other groups.
If you need a T-shape software development team, contact Apiumhub, we are here to help!