An “I” or a “T”  Which are you?

An “I” or a “T” Which are you?

An “I” or a “T” – Which are you?

When we hire new employees, it all comes down to skills, and there are basically two types of people – “I” type and “T” type.

An “I” has a skillset that is narrow and deep, indicating people that have a depth of knowledge about a particular area and have narrow scope – think of specialists like nuclear physicists and pharmaceutical researchers.

Now think of a “T” – a “T” skillset still has depth of knowledge and expertise in an area, but a “T” also has arms outstretched indicating that they also have knowledge of other areas.

I studied Engineering in college, and although my course touched on business, it was never really a priority class – I was more focussed on analogue and digital electronics, Smith charts and Fourier equations.

However, when I got my first job, I needed to understand a manufacturing environment, purchasing, scheduling, HR and finance. Despite my engineering qualification, I quickly ended up studying quality engineering, business and IT systems. I needed them to be able to communicate effectively with other functions within the company that had a direct effect on work that I was doing, and whose work I affected.

As I moved into Operations Management, knowledge of project management, marketing and sales, finance and a range of HR related areas including recruitment and appraisal became necessary .It’s impossible to manage a production line if you don’t understand the financial implications of yields and waste, and without HR skills it’s difficult  to manage a highly mobile workforce.

Despite my initial degree, I now have qualifications in diverse areas such as quality systems, quality management, operations management, supervisory management and 6 Sigma. The thing is, although I still focus on one area, these diverse skills are still of benefit and are regularly used. I’m still learning – I recently completed a training qualification and completed a course in entrepreneurship and lean business. I guess I am aspiring to be a “T”.

According to Andy Boynton in Forbes, “I’s” and “T’s” both have a place in modern organisations, but people should aspire to develop “T” characteristics. If you think of an ideal leader, they have transdisciplinary skills, can communicate effectively with different departments and are empathetic. They can manage cross functional and cross disciplinary teams because they understand them.