Why Agile teams want t-shaped people

On Scrum teams we often speak of ideals. While these may not be immediately attainable by the team they are things a team should strive to attain as it will assist them in becoming a high performing team. One of these ideals is a T-shaped person.

A t-shaped person is one who has breadth in a number of areas, and depth in a few. This allows that person to pick up work that, for example, includes front-end and back-end technology. The t-shaped team member may not be a wizard on the API’s, although they’ll be able to get by.

T-shaped people complement Agile teams

If we’ve got a team of t-shaped people then we’ve got breadth as well as depth in a number of areas. The team members will complement one another.

For example, we have Bob who is a t-shaped person with front-end and back-end experience. Sally is the API wizard though. How does this work in practice? Bob may pick up a story that requires an extension to the API, and he will write that. Sally may provide a code review or have included some points in the acceptance criteria to guide Bob. Ultimately they are working together to deliver value to the customer.

Cross-Functional Teams

A team of t-shaped people, each with different skills and specialities, enables team members to complement one another and form a high performing team. Teams with these cross-functional members, another way of saying t-shaped people, are higher performing as they have less internal bottlenecks and contention for one person’s time.

Of course the final benefit is that the team no longer has a single point of failure (SPOF). Should Sally leave the team then Bob has sufficient knowledge to continue on.

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