In 1991, the Independent published an article by David Geste titled “The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man in Computer Science”. Here the author proposed the T-Shaped Skills competency model – these are unique specialists “of the future” who can become leaders at completely new levels for a company.

T-Shaped Skills assume the division of all knowledge and skills into two vectors: vertical and horizontal. The vertical line reflects the depth and competence of knowledge in a narrow professional area, while the horizontal line reflects the breadth of knowledge in relevant professional areas. The I-knowledge, skills, and abilities of experts and generalists are schematized as follows:T-Shaped Skills

From this figure we see that:

The I-expert is an expert in only one area (vertical line).

The generalist (or generalist specialist) has knowledge in many professional areas, but is not an expert in any of them (horizontal line).

Advantages of T-people and teams

T-people have a number of undeniable advantages over other professionals because they balance professional skills with nonprofessional skills, allowing for quick learning and adaptation to an ever-changing work environment:

  • Enhanced communication and collaboration skills.
  • Ability to generate and develop meaningful ideas not only in the area in which they are experts, but also in relevant professional fields.

People-T are most in demand and effective as leaders in the following areas:

Management (top management). It is T-Shaped who have the greatest potential for effective work, both in rank-and-file management positions, and in top positions. Such people are able to create the most productive working atmosphere in a team, since, as we have already mentioned, they are able to build effective communication with all related specialists working on a project. Unlike generalists, they have the ability to evaluate and develop any idea, and unlike narrow experts, they have a broader and freer mind, which also contributes to the fact that employees under their leadership are able to create more innovative and advanced projects.

Project Management. Since to manage any projects, especially innovative ones, management needs to be as flexible as possible due to probable changes in the course of their development and implementation, T-people in such an environment will be more effective than leaders with another type of competencies.

Startups. As with project management, the skills of a startup leader must be sufficient to intelligently assess a potential idea, modify it, develop it, or steer it in a completely different direction. Only T-Shaped skills can allow a startup CEO to develop the most effective options.

We have already considered the advantages of a single employee with developed T-Shaped skills, but some companies prefer to create a whole team of such people. According to human resource management researchers, a team made up of T-shaped people has higher potential than teams made up of other types of specialists.

Their advantages:

  • Effective teamwork
  • Faster customer service
  • Interchangeability or flexibility

Everyone has to do a job in which they are a professional, but if they can understand the relevant areas and perform simple tasks in them, they become an indispensable expert. In other words, the T-Shaped Skills competency model focuses on effective teamwork and managing that team, rather than the fact that hiring T employees will reduce human resource costs.