Meet Global Kinetic’s T-shaped teams


Clay is an accredited professional Scrum product owner and lead agile program manager at Global Kinetic. A strong advocate of Global Kinetic’s values and culture, his focus as a leader is on ensuring teams are inspired and motivated, always learning and improving, and fully equipped to deliver their best. He’s also remarkably T-shaped!

How the world of work went T-shaped

McKinsey & Co. coined the term “T-shaped” in the 1980s to refer to the kinds of consultants it wanted to recruit and develop. The vertical stroke of the T represents the depth of a candidate’s expertise in a single discipline – their knowledge of US monetary policy, medieval trade routes, or database design. The horizontal stroke (actually an “arm” in the language of typography) stands for the breadth of their knowledge of adjacent disciplines and possession of complementary skills – structured writing, climatology, or ASP.NET.

The combination of specialist and general knowledge has become increasingly valued as work has become more collaborative and frequently involves different kinds of specialists who will only succeed if they can communicate with and understand the contributions of others.

There’s no team without a T

Few sectors of the economy have taken up the idea of T-shaped skills as enthusiastically as ours: software development. With agile, cross-skilled developers and testers are usually considered essential – they certainly are at Global Kinetic.

Through our managed software delivery engagement, our teams are shaped and enabled to be successful, cross-functional, and autonomous. It’s very much a vision of a T-shaped team of T-shaped people. Our standard scrum ceremonies are driven by collaborative engagement involving the developer, SDET (software development engineer in test), analyst, and product owner functions, which is the foundation for delivering high-quality, fit-for-purpose solutions to our clients.

The individuals that comprise our delivery teams are all specialists in their fields and collectively cover all the disciplines any project requires. All of our technical team members must have DevOps experience and the ability to support their tech stack and release pipelines as a minimum. When agile project managers / business analysts are assigned to a new team, their thorough onboarding ensures that they get a good foundation in the relevant architecture, tech stack capabilities, and supporting technical processes.

Every team also has a product architect or development lead. These are subject matter experts in at least one discipline and have good experience with other tech stacks, so there’s a very strong horizontal bar in their T-shape. Coupled with knowledge of broad architecture and design standards, they help the team to respond to technology change and to more accurately assess risks that arise through the software development life cycle.

Developing T-shaped people

Our firm belief is that mastery should first be achieved in one discipline before cross-skilling in another tech stack, and that takes time. It’s also true that developing T-shaped skills on your own is difficult. It’s not cheap and takes a lot of self-discipline as a working developer.

Global Kinetic is a distinctly people-focused business. People represent the heart of our culture and values, and skills development is a big part of that. We tend to hire more experienced developers, but we nevertheless invest heavily in their continued learning and development, for which we provide a training budget and allocated training days each year. (On the other end of the spectrum, the third iteration of our highly successful intern program is underway. We take a different approach to other companies, which I am proud about. I hope to tell you about it later this year.)

We tend to hire more experienced developers, but we nevertheless invest heavily in their continued learning and development.

We are rigid in our application of scrum. This helps us provide a supportive and collaborative environment for cross-skilling. Agile project managers share their expertise with other members of their team, ensuring process continuation when they are away. Our business architects meanwhile teach project managers the fundamentals of their discipline, enabling process continuation in refinement and discovery efforts.

Our default sprint goal is production shippable product increment, so our definition of done (DoD) is that the increment is tested and signed off in our pre-production environment. Our SDET function and leading test automation standards drive refinement conversations around what testing is involved to achieve our DoD. This has established a very solid understanding of the SDET function within the development teams, as well as how the code is tested and the quality standards on which it is assessed.

T-shaped processes

Our flow – the steps we take to get things done – is highly collaborative and this in itself has helped grow and mature our autonomous teams.

The implementation of our test matrix has given our SDET function another brilliant view into the code base and, as a result, led to a better understanding of unit tests and test coverage. This has also enabled our business analysts to confidently perform manual testing tasks, which has enhanced the T-shapes of our managed development teams.

Our managed software delivery process depends on the development teams having technical ownership of the solutions that they are building. Through our dual-track (discovery and delivery) agile process, we work with our clients and product owners to understand business needs and problem statements before our technical team begins collaborative investigation and design sessions to define the requirements in detail.

As an organization, we build on the T-Shape developer logic, ensuring that the different project teams have a broad understanding of the other active projects at Global Kinetic.

As an organization, we build on the T-Shape developer logic, ensuring that the different project teams have a broad understanding of the other active projects at Global Kinetic. We hold weekly knowledge share sessions on varying topics, which do a great job of providing our teams with continued learning paths and a broader understanding of our software development life cycle, as well as fintech industry innovations.

To service our Gold Partnership with Microsoft, we must maintain a level of training and accreditation of our people. Each year, at least 12 team members pass through the Azure accreditation program, proving a vital platform for supporting T-Shape aspirations. Recently, several of our software development leads also successfully completed solution architecture accreditations, which has broadened the ranks of our Pi-shaped developers, but that is another story.