In scrum, and in many Agile frameworks, the term ‘T-shaped’ refers to the skills of the members of the team. The team members have a skill or skills that they specialise in, and then they have other skills that are competent in but are not specialists.
In a typical development team, the majority of team members will have the core skill of development in the main programming language for their product.
In some teams, one or two members may have the core skills of a tester or systems and business analysis.
For each team member, they will have secondary skills. Each developer, will have skills in testing, scripting, in developing in other languages, plus other skills.
One of the main reasons for this is that a team should be able to not only develop and test and release their product as a team but also if team members are sick or on vacation, the team should still be able to complete their work. Work should not halt just because one or two of the team members are not at work on a particular day.
Another benefit is that the team members long-term career benefits from the development of new skills and experience.
How do You Develop T-shaped People?
For the team members to develop into T-shaped people, cross-skilling and knowledge sharing is needed. In the beginning, this may be time-consuming, and the velocity of the team may be impacted. As the skill level of the team members increases, the effectiveness of the team increases and becomes more consistent over time. No single person becomes a bottleneck. Sprints that require more analysis or testing no longer rely on a single member, as the work can be shared across the team. The knowledge of the system and the business also increases.