Ever wondered if deep specialists in specific fields are most productive on teams with similarly skilled people or a wide variety? A similar question came in from a client in today:
I will complete my Product Owner training today. The course I am taking is taught by a local consultant. Yesterday I got into a bit of a discussion with her regarding technology specialists and I have some questions/concerns that I hope you can address. While I understand that on a scrum development team, any team member should be able to complete any item in the backlog, I am struggling with the idea that with scrum we do not have specialists. Simply put, without specialists in adhesive formulation, there would be no Post-Its, without specialiset in microreplication, there would be no Diamond Grade and without specialists in coating formulation, there would be no Scotchgard. So, my question is how do we balance the need for specialists to develop and promote critical technologies and the Scrum vision that everyone is a generalist.
Perhaps the situation is not as black and white as Angela made it sound. Perhaps she was just trying to make a point. I’d like to understand from you, how this works in practice.
Your trainer is awesome. I absolutely see where she is building toward teams with the fewest wait-states, which are caused by handoffs. Cannon, according to the academic white papers written about their process at the time, accomplished something similar with the world’s first autofocus camera that created the revenue which made Cannon the household name it is today. The academic and research papers say they absolutely had a lens specialist, and a shutter specialist, and a camera body specialist, and more. But they chose to work together on each aspect of the project instead of dividing it into phases and handoffs. In this way, the lens specialist is said to have paired on designing shutter and exposure systems and vice versa, and each expressed it deepened their mastery of their own specialty by helping develop the neighboring components and technologies. This technique is often referred to as “T” shaped people, where the tall vertical line of the “T” could represent the deep specialty and likely Ph.D., and the horizontal top of the “T” represents being proficient enough to help in at least 2 other disciplines. A team of 4-5 specialists that must hand off to each other constantly is slow and diluted, and difficult to focus on one cohesive delivery at a time which is the primary timeline advantage of Scrum. a team of 4-5 T-shaped people, made of specialists in adhesives formulation, microreplication, and coating formulation, statistically gives us twice the work in half the time, record time to market, and record business growth. And, most importantly, record new product delivery, not just new product ideas (false innovation). Warmly, Joe
I hope this post might help more folks with access to experts who have earned deep domain knowledge.
-Joe Justice, President Scrum in Hardware, Scrum Inc. Founder and CEO Team WIKISPEED.