Specialist or GeneralistMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
“Which one to prefer for you projects?”
With more and more software development teams adopting Agile methodologies, one debate that has been prevailing, amongst all, is that what kind of resources to utilize on projects? Should they be Specialists or they should be Generalists?
Specialist, always have good practice or master of field, have an edge that if any issue, related to their domain occurs, they are real quick to get to the root of the issue and provide quality solution in minimum amount of time and in a narrow range of possibilities. They can also be very useful in providing support and guidance to junior team members related to their domain and area of expertise. Specialists always give you an edge by providing quality solution. They can be planned effectively to give domain sessions, conduct code reviews and other team building activities. As they move to more of assistance to project management role, they will them-self grow and will bring the same back to the team. But It is not essentially true that you would prefer a specialist all the time. The issue with Specialist is that there is not always a need for them and they are made to work on things which a junior resource should be doing. So basically the organization is paying extra to do some work and also the lack of effective utilization and inflexibility may lead to demotivation of the senior resource. Most organizations try to put on senior resources on multiple project but again experts will agree that it is not a very good practice to keep moving the senior resource between different projects at a time.
Generalists, are varied and versatile in skills having a fair knowledge and aptitude of various trades, provide you with an advantage that they can perform any task as per requirement. They can be fully utilized and are very useful in avoiding any kind of bottlenecks. The issue with having Generalists is that though they can work on any kind of tasks but they are not expert in any domain and they are sacrificing depth for breadth. Their skill level is most of the time limited in the assigned domain.
Show, what type of sources to be utilized in a project? Specialists or Generalists?
My answer would be to use mixture of both that is “Expert-Generalist” far more effective in fast changing workplace with their transferable skills to work outside of core area and to go more broad and deep with their survival skills.
Using “Expert-Generalist” as a mix in your team will certainly bring in better performance in workflow and avoid bottlenecks. To make them more effective and improvise on situations, comprehensive growth plan should be applied by the project manager. The growth plan may include sessions with domain experts and diverse knowledge base as well as personal training sessions to build their skillsets.