The meaning of generalising specialist: the role of the generalising specialist in the agile team

The meaning of generalising specialist: the role of the generalising specialist in the agile team

Instead of traditional experts, a new role in agile teams, the so-called generalizing specialist, is increasingly coming to the fore. In a rapidly changing business environment, these specialists play a key role in increasing productivity and driving projects to success. In this article, we'll explore why they excel at communication, problem solving, team collaboration and effective task allocation, and how they contribute to project success.

A generalising specialist is a highly sought-after specialist in agile teams -

What is a generalising specialist? 

A generalising specialist or generalist has a broad knowledge of a particular field, but is also at home in other disciplines and has multidisciplinary experience. He or she is a multi-tasker, able to switch quickly between different areas of specialisation, so that his or her knowledge and skills can help projects on several fronts. When building agile teams, professionals with these qualities are in high demand.

Why are generalising specialists so popular?

A generalizing specialist is a very rewarding role, as the greater someone's skill set, the more likely they are to be in demand and the easier it is to find a project that matches their skills and needs.

Thanks to greater productivity and versatility, generalists can choose from a much better offer. Think of it roughly as a portfolio of shares. If you only own and trade a single share, your strategy will be very risky and you may fail. The same is true for specialisms, so it is advisable to have as broad a range of assets as possible to maximise efficiency.

The general expert is a specialist in several fields.

What skills should a generalist have?

Now let's look at the most important skills required in the job of a generalizing specialist.

  • Cross functional knowledge - Understand the basic workings and processes of other areas, so you can get an overview of the whole process of design and development.
  • Communication skills - Communicate effectively with other team members, even if they work in different areas. You can express your thoughts and ideas simply and clearly.
  • Problem-solving skills - It takes a flexible approach and solves problems. Ability to see through complex situations and find creative solutions.
  • Flexibility - You can adapt quickly to changing priorities and requirements, and even take on tasks in other areas.
  • Cooperation and teamwork - You can work well with different team members and always keep the team's goals in mind. Helps to minimise and resolve conflicts and promote cooperation. 
  • Willingness to learn - He is open to new knowledge and likes to delve into unknown areas. Ready to develop and expand your knowledge base to meet new challenges.
  • Critical thinking - You can properly evaluate information and understand its implications in different areas and processes.
  • Time management - You can organise and prioritise work well in each area in order to complete tasks efficiently.
  • Creativity - Ability to think of new solutions and use innovative approaches to solve problems.
  • Professional integrity - You will uphold ethical and professional standards in your work and be committed to quality and performance.

Generalizing specialist in the agile team: 10 advantages

Let's look at some of the key benefits that a generalist can add to teamwork!

#1. benefit: Better communication and cooperation

A generalizing specialist is able to see the big picture. How areas and tasks fit together. As a result, they typically have a better understanding and appreciation of what different team members are working on. 

Because you are more versed in several areas, you can communicate more easily with other experts and team members. This helps you to collaborate more effectively and avoid conflicts.

Unlike a generalising specialist, experts in a particular field often do not have the background to understand the problems that other specialists deal with. As a result, their work may not be valued, they may be looked down upon, their efforts may be criticised and they may be unable to cooperate. By their very nature, these types of specialists can also hinder communication within the team. 

#2. advantage: less documentation

Experts in each field may tend to produce too much documentation. In addition, their specifications tend to contain more information than necessary and often need to be revised in collaboration with other domains, which slows down the work. 

A generalizing specialist is not lost in the details. He will choose the best place to record the essential and important information, so that his team will be much more efficient than a team of specialists in a particular field.

A generalising specialisa is an expert who has a broad knowledge of a particular field but is also at home in other disciplines.

#3. advantage: lower risk

Traditionally, in specialisation, teams break down tasks according to each person's area of expertise, resulting in more handover points between people. That is, each specialist does their own work and passes it on to the next specialist. The problem is that there is a loss of information at each hand-off, which also increases the overall risk. 

In an agile team, instead of throwing artefacts at each other, team members share them and work together to improve them as needed, while learning from each other. This reduces the overall risk, as there is less information, team members are more familiar with the system, and they can continuously improve their skills.

#4. benefit: Less congested tasks

It can be very inefficient if some teams have a backlog of tasks, causing other teams to wait. As the workload is not even, the efficiency of the latter will also be affected if they cannot progress with tasks on time. In many cases, the assignment of professionals to multiple teams is seen by traditionalists as a good idea because it is based on resource allocation rather than overall team efficiency. However, generalizing specialists are able to think systemically, so these problems can be eliminated.

#5. advantage: agility

A generalizing specialist can take over the tasks of other team members if someone is absent or if there is a sudden surge in workload in an area. This increases the adaptability and agility of the team.

#6. advantage: flexibility

A generalizing specialist can easily switch between different tasks and areas. This allows the team to adapt more easily to changing needs and priorities.

#7. advantage: more versatile problem solving

A generalizing specialist is able to combine and apply their knowledge from different fields, so they are better able to solve more complex problems.

#8. benefit: Improving team dynamics

A generalist can help improve teamwork and synergy, as more comprehensive knowledge and skills can help him or her to keep the team together and motivated.

Benefit #9: Minimise unpredictability

If all team members had at least a basic level of knowledge in each area, there would be less chance of certain work processes being completely halted or tasks delayed due to a lack of expertise.

#10. advantage: continuous improvement

To work effectively, the generalizing specialist continuously develops his/her skills and knowledge in different areas, which both contributes to the success of the project and helps him/her to face new challenges more easily, in addition to his/her professional development.

Overall, the role of a generalizing specialist in an agile team contributes to effective teamwork, better communication and problem solving, as the broad knowledge and skills allow for a more versatile approach and collaboration on projects.

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