When it comes to the skill set of Scrum team members, we usually talk about T-shaped people who have deep skills in at least one discipline and broader skills in a number of relevant other areas. For example, consider a black-belt tester who is also a good system manager and a fairly good programmer – testing would be the upright part of the “T”, whereas the other skills indicate the horizontal line on top of the “T”. In other publications, those people are called poly-skilled engineers.
This concept is based on the observation that people with a variety of skills can support their teams in the most flexible and helpful way, without being locked into their main (and sometimes only) area of expertise. I think this is true, and successful teams -not only in an Agile environment- clearly benefit when their members have partly overlapping yet complementary skills. Maybe you have to walk in your co-worker’s moccasins for a while before you can fully appreciate the value of her contribution to the team success.
However, the discussions often seem to focus on technical skills and obvious aspects such as “teamwork” or “communication”. But there are many other competences that I find important to mention and to develop. Besides technical competence, these are methodical, social, and self competence.
In this blog post, I want to provide an overview of all four dimensions.
Dimension #1: Technical Competence
Generally, technical competence summarize the skills a team member needs to perform her specific tasks. To a high degree they depend on the requirements of the organization. Examples are programming languages, knowledge of IT tools, or requirements engineering skills. I also think that domain knowledge of the respective industry belongs into this chapter. And, by the way, the technical skill for a leader is leadership.
Dimension #2: Methodical Competence
Methodical competence strengthens a person’s capabilities of solving problems in a structured way. They include aspects such as
- analytical skills (ability to decompose complex problems and systems; abstract thinking; risk awareness; finding correlations; differentiation between important and less important topics; taking different points of view)
- ability to explain content and educate others (presenting content and delivering background information; giving explanations; concluding from circumstances; exemplifying rationale and consequences)
- moderating skills (ability to facilitate workshops and meetings and make them productive; mastering multiple visualization techniques; orchestrate teamwork towards a result)
- Agile principles and practices (collective ownership; pair doing; continuous deployment; refactoring; clean code; test automation; incremental design; failing early, fast and often; story mapping; impact mapping; behavior-driven development; test-driven development)
Dimension #3: Social Competence
A high level of social competence is a prerequisite for a team member who wants to effectively collaborate and communicate with others. Relevant aspects of social competence are
- communication skills (active listening and professional communication capabilities also in writing; speaking foreign languages)
- team-mindedness (striving to achieve team goals; taking over different roles and responsibilities depending on the situation; understanding others)
- giving and taking feedback (ability to articulate feedback and deal with criticism; recognizing shortcomings in individual behavior; suggesting opportunities for improvement)
- ability to deal with conflicts (measuring actions against values and principles; addressing disputes and actively participating in resolving them)
- empathy (putting oneself in a team member’s or customer’s position; understanding the situation and requirements of others; confirming thoughts, intentions, and emotions of others)
Dimension #4: Self Competence
Self competence describes a set of skills which give a flavor of a person’s ability and willingness to perform in unexpected situations. The most relevant indicators are
- self-management (taking over responsibility for personal development and increasing maturity; reflecting and adjusting one’s own behavior; shaping future actions; organization and time management)
- assertiveness (exerting influence to foster a desired behavior; convincing others; enforcing a certain opinion; achieving decisions)
- persistence (finishing tasks even after a long time; completing tasks also against resistance; rising to a challenge)
- engagement (inciting oneself and others to go beyond normal activity in order to achieve a success; aspiring the realization of ideas, solutions, and improvements; communicating expectations and regularly meeting or exceeding them)
- creativity (combining known solutions to new approaches; challenging existing methods and seeking ideas to improve them; suggesting ways to improve customer satisfaction)
- proactivity (taking the initiative even in demanding environments; utilizing the scope for design)
- behavior (dressing, behaving, and speaking appropriately; having poise; disciplining oneself)
- entrepreneurship (considering the cost-benefit-ratio; utilizing existing resources; identifying oneself with the organization; actively seeking to add value; prioritizing thoroughly)
- autonomy (fulfilling tasks independently; taking over responsibility; acting without being prompted)
- self-confidence (utilizing one’s own capabilities; knowing one’s own limitations; overcoming self-doubt)
- focus (working concentrated on one’s tasks; keeping an eye on the goal)
- loyalty (acting dutifully with coworkers and for leaders; demonstrating followership; accepting decisions; adhering to commitments; compensating deviations; being trustworthy)
- candidness (communicating relevant topics to the responsible person; demonstrating a high level of adaptability; being intellectually curious; readiness for change)
- respect (allowing different opinions; being able to handle weaknesses of oneself or others; esteeming co-workers and leaders; generally treating others as equal; neglecting to hurt others)
- courage (overcoming anxiety; willingness to generate irritations; standing by one’s legitimation)
I believe that all four dimensions of competences are equally important. Team members and their line managers should strive to develop all of those four dimensions with a thorough personnel development concept. It’s always smart to start with yourself, trying to improve your self competence and becoming a valuable and esteemed member of your team. But don’t forget the other competences.
After all, being mediocre in every discipline or being a one-dimensional black-belt may not be sufficient for the challenges your team faces. So it’s everybody’s responsibility to work on personal growth in all four dimensions.
Let me know what you think.