Are you a T-shaped individual?

In an earlier post, I had warned about mini-waterfall in disguise, putting forward ‘cross-functional’ as a better term to describe team cooperation than ‘multi-disciplinary.’ So, how do you recognize cross-functional teams that are not multi-disciplinary teams in disguise? Well, they form the category of T-shaped professionals.

T-shaped as in tester-shaped? No, not really… T-shaped refers to the shape of the letter T. It refers to how well one performs, both individually and as a member of a group.

the T quadrantA combination of these two dimensions result in four possible quadrants:the T quadrant

L – The bottom left quadrant is a sad one: poor performance either way …

 - The top left one refers to emphatic people that act as the glue in a group and ensure a good working spirit, but, unfortunately, have little or no individual contribution to the group’s success.

I – The bottom right one is the traditional specialist, very good if not excellent at what they do, but little or no interest or feeling for matters outside their own field of expertise.

T – The top right quadrant reflects the T-shaped individual that combines individual excellence with emphatic group behavior.

So, what makes you a T-shaped individual? It’s the combination of 4 distinct qualities:

TYour T needs to have a good ‘specialist leg.’ This can be programming, design, analysis, testing, etc.

The bar of your T reflects three competences:

Firstly: Broad IT knowledge. If you’re a programmer, you know some design principles, analysis models and test coverage benefits. If you’re a designer, you are familiar with some programming languages, analysis models and testing. If you’re an analyst, you would know something about … well, you get the picture, about all those other IT disciplines.

Secondly: Subject matter knowledge. When you’re in a team, producing banking software, you know banking; when you’re in transportation, you know transportation. You might not be an expert in that specific field, but you would be able to talk the talk.

Thirdly, but certainly not lastly, you are emphatic, enthusiastic and inquisitive. You can relate to someone else’s ideas, you can see things from a different perspective than merely from your own point of view/domain. You’re a “lifelong learner”.

A T-shaped individual is not the new ‘Uomo Universale’ that knows everything about everything, but he/she does know a lot about a lot of things!

Take a look in the mirror and be honest to yourself: are you T‑shaped? Or do you – like the most of us – fit into the profile of a specialist or a generalist that still needs to take some steps along one or more of the four axes to truly become a T-shaped individual?


To add comments, please visit the SogetiLabs blog: Are you a T-shaped individual?

Ben Visser
Ben Visser
Experienced test manager and test consultant
+31 886 606 600
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