InappropriateSpecialisation

The team members will have too much or too little specialization

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The team members will have too much or too little specialization.Too much specialization hinders communication and reduces flexibility.Too little specialization can lead to a LackOfExpertise.

Discussion

There is a growing body of opinion that the ideal team member is a GeneralizingSpecialist.This individual balances the need for specialist expertise with the need for all round ability.It is accepted that expertise goes stale too fast for anybody to become an all round expert, though some individuals come remarkably close.Specialists without knowledge of related fields have limited ability to communicate with people in those fields, and lack the flexibility to do useful productive work if their specialization is not currently required.However, it is possible to go too far the other way and have people that are expert on nothing, though they know the basics of all areas of work.This gives them the flexibility to take on easy tasks in any area, but means that there isnít anybody to undertake the difficult tasks in any area.See also the related areas LackOfExpertise, dealing with shortage of expertise in its various forms, LocatingExpertise, where expertise is theoretically available but not being used effectively because people donít know about it, and LossOfEssentialExpertise where the expert goes away taking his expertise with him.

Prevention, Amelioration, Cure

Traditional

Prevention can be achieved by staffing the team with appropriate people.This may require forward thinking to put in place appropriate training and skills transfer processes.Where expertise is scarce when staffing a project, take the advice given by DomainExpertiseInRoles.Gaps may be filled with bought-in expertise.However, once the project is under way and has to make do with the staff it has, it is too late for these approaches (but see LackOfExpertise).All available expertise can be brought to bear when developing by DevelopmentEpisode; this also aids in skills transfer where individuals on the team are too narrow in their specializations.If all else fails and there just isnít the required expertise available, BuildPrototypes as a learning exercise.A variant of this is a Ďpilot projectí where the best members of the team undertake a small amount of the work as a separate project.The expertise they gain is used to seed the main project.

Modern

Getting hold of expertise at short notice is as much a problem as ever, but agile approaches usually have GeneralizingSpecialists on the team, and have efficient methods of skills and knowledge transfer such as are given by DevelopingInPairs.What expertise is available is used to best advantage, and levels of expertise increase rapidly.