A Generalist vs. A Specialist: Which is Better in Agile?


This is a discussion contained in a sidebar on p. 42 of Chapter 4:  Implementing Agile in the Agile Practice Guide.

The letter “I” is long, but not wide, and so a “I-shaped” person, metaphorically speaking, is someone who has depth within a certain domain of knowledge, but not contribute that much outside the domain.

The letter “T” is wide at the top, and so a “T-shaped” person, metaphorically speaking, is someone who has expertise in one area, but adds to that with less-developed skills in associated areas, and most importantly, good collaboration skills.   This allows them to help other people when and where necessary.

My guess would be that a “T-shaped” person is more suited to the role as a team facilitator, and that an “I-shaped” person is more suited to the role of being a team member.   A product owner would be somewhere in between because that person has to have enough skills in the domain that the product entails, but also has to have enough expertise in business so that they can take the technical work and prioritize it according to how much business value it adds to the customer.

In the next post, I will cover the next topic which is the recommendation by the Agile Alliance regarding how the team members do their work.

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