The concept of T-shaped skills, or T-shaped persons is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the letter T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own. The term T-shaped skills is also common in the agile software development world and refers to the need for cross-skilled developers and testers in an agile team, e.g. a scrum team.
History of T-Shaped Skills
The first “official” reference to T-shaped skills, or a T-shaped person, was made by David Guest back in 1991. The concept gained real popularity after the CEO of IDEO Design Consultancy firm – Tim Brown – endorsed the idea when looking over applicants’ resumes. Brown’s idea? Using the search for T-shaped skills/a T-shaped person helps build the very best interdisciplinary teams within a company. It, in turn, leads to a stronger, more efficient and potentially groundbreaking company.
However, historically speaking, the term T-shaped man can be dated back to the 1980s. At that time, McKinsey & Company used the term widely on internal documents and publications that were seen primarily by upper management. The term was referring to the idea that the T-shaped man (which also included women by that point) was ideal for recruitment as an employee and should also be looked for in terms of the consultants and partners the company decided to work with.