The shape of the letter ‘T’ in teams

The museum sector I orbit is facing a short-term period of uncertainly. More than ever we’re all looking at what are our teams need to be in order to adapt to a rewritten rule book. Getting things done at scale is why people come together. We form teams because “Annie” has particular specialist skills that “Jerry” doesn’t and vice versa. In my experience this has a tendency for us to focus too very heavily on 1-2 easily identifiable areas and recruit according to a deep skill.

As an example on paper my specialist skill would be computing related. Yet what I bring to the team is a broader set of systems thinking skills in addition to other skills at various degrees of sharpeness. Therefore if I left the team it would be tempting to say “we need to replace Zak with another person with computing background” which is a reductive way of solving the team gap.

A much better way to consider what a team needs as a whole is to think in terms of T-shaped skills. In this concept we acknowledge that specialist skills are important and these form the long part (or stem) of the T shape but that all the other skills are the cross bar and equally critical. With limited people and budgets it is unlikely we can recruit our way out alone. I was reminded of all the cross bar skills in Seth Godin’s piece on real skills. What if we focused on protecting our stem by strenthening the cross bar instead? could this lead to progression based on your cross bar rather your stem alone? could we focus on the stress points and scale up or down accordingly? can we value consent-based decision making? problem solving?

What real skills can I focus on in 2023 towards enduring the uncertainty?

Reading list 2023

Every year I like to make a record of books I’ve read. I managed 14 in 2022 and have at least that many already sitting ready for this year.

  1. A Brief History of Black British Art by Rianna Jade Parker fnished 1st January 2023. Paperback ISBN 9781849767569
  2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler finished 18th January 2023 on Kindle.
  3. Jerry Saltz Art is Life hardback finished 20 February
  4. Trinity: The Treachery and Pursuit of the Most Dangerous Spy in History by Frank Close finished 13th March paperback ISBN 9780141986449.
  5. Atlas of Prejudice: The Complete Stereotype Map Collection by Yanko Tsvetkov finished 13th March paperback ISBN 97884617956666
  6. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke on Kindle
  7. Stolen focus Johann Hari on Kindle finished 23rd May 2023
  8. The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavingia on kidle finished 31 July 2023. A short but inspiring read by the founder of Gumroad. No meetings, part time and transparency ties in nicely with my thinking. I’ve been talking asynchronous for years so good to see a real example.
  9. Surviving to Drive – a year inside Formula 1 by Guenther Steiner finished 24th September 2023. Hardbook ISBN 978 1787636279