What Are T-Shaped Skills And Why You Need To Hire A X-Shaped Profile

A T-shaped profile is a professional who has broad competencies in several areas, critical to the business, while that same professional has a deep competence in a key area of expertise. An X-shaped profile combines a T-shaped profile and strategic thinking able to sheer a company’s strategy


DefinitionT-Shaped Skills refer to a skill set where an individual has a wide range of knowledge and skills across different disciplines (the horizontal bar of the “T”), but also possesses deep expertise in one specific area (the vertical stem of the “T”).
StructureBroad Knowledge: The horizontal bar represents a broad understanding of various fields, which may include marketing, design, coding, project management, or other relevant areas.
Deep Expertise: The vertical stem signifies in-depth proficiency in a specific domain or skill, often referred to as the “specialization” or “core competency.”
ImportanceT-Shaped Skills are valuable because they allow professionals to adapt to different roles and collaborate effectively across multidisciplinary teams. This versatility is particularly crucial in rapidly changing industries and workplaces.
BenefitsCross-Functional Collaboration: T-Shaped Professionals can collaborate seamlessly with colleagues from different backgrounds.
Problem-Solving: Their breadth of knowledge and deep expertise enable them to solve complex problems effectively. – Innovation: T-Shaped Professionals are well-positioned to drive innovation by connecting ideas from diverse fields.
Adaptability: They can easily pivot and take on different roles as organizational needs evolve.
Career Advancement: T-Shaped Professionals often have a competitive advantage in the job market and career advancement opportunities.
DrawbacksTime and Effort: Developing both broad knowledge and deep expertise can be time-consuming and challenging.
Balance: Maintaining a balance between the breadth and depth of skills requires careful planning and continuous learning.
Specialization Limitation: In some highly specialized roles, deep expertise may be prioritized over broad skills.
Industry Specificity: The value of T-Shaped Skills varies across industries and roles.
DevelopmentDeveloping T-Shaped Skills involves:
Identifying Interests: Determine the specific domain or area where you want to specialize (the vertical stem).
Building Depth: Invest time and effort in acquiring advanced knowledge and skills in your chosen specialization.
Exploring Horizontally: Explore and learn about other related disciplines to broaden your knowledge (the horizontal bar).
Practice and Application: Apply your skills and knowledge in real-world projects and scenarios.
Continuous Learning: Stay updated with the latest trends and developments in both your specialization and broader areas of interest.
ExamplesDigital Marketer: A digital marketer may specialize in search engine optimization (SEO) while also having a broad understanding of content marketing, social media, email marketing, and analytics.
Software Developer: A software developer may excel in front-end web development (the vertical stem) and have a good understanding of back-end development, databases, and design (the horizontal bar).
Product Manager: A product manager could specialize in user experience (UX) design and also have knowledge of project management, marketing, and customer research.
Entrepreneur: Entrepreneurs often develop T-Shaped Skills as they need to wear multiple hats in their businesses, from finance and marketing to operations and strategy.
DefinitionX-Shaped Skills refer to a skill set where an individual has deep expertise in at least two distinct and unrelated domains, forming the shape of an “X.” These domains can be in various fields, industries, or areas of expertise.
StructureExpertise in Multiple Domains: X-Shaped Professionals have deep knowledge and skills in at least two unrelated domains.
Cross-Disciplinary Proficiency: They can effectively apply their expertise across different areas and integrate knowledge from both domains.
Innovation Catalyst: X-Shaped Professionals often drive innovation by combining insights from diverse domains.
Versatility: Their adaptability enables them to tackle complex problems that require interdisciplinary solutions.
ImportanceX-Shaped Skills are highly valuable because they facilitate creativity, innovation, and the ability to address complex challenges that span multiple domains. These skills are especially relevant in industries characterized by rapid change and convergence.
BenefitsInnovation Catalyst: X-Shaped Professionals are often at the forefront of innovation due to their ability to connect ideas from unrelated domains.
Problem Solving: They excel in solving complex, multifaceted problems that require cross-disciplinary insights.
Versatility: Their skill set allows them to work effectively in diverse teams and projects.
Career Advancement: X-Shaped Professionals have a competitive edge in industries that value innovation and adaptability.
DrawbacksResource-Intensive Development: Developing expertise in multiple domains can be time-consuming and demanding.
Specialization Sacrifice: X-Shaped Professionals may need to forego becoming ultra-specialized in a single area.
Challenges of Integration: Integrating knowledge from unrelated domains can be challenging and requires continuous learning.
Industry Specificity: The value of X-Shaped Skills varies across industries and roles.
DevelopmentDeveloping X-Shaped Skills involves:
Identifying Domains: Choose two or more distinct domains or fields where you want to develop expertise.
Deep Learning: Invest significant time and effort in acquiring advanced knowledge and skills in each selected domain.
Integration: Explore ways to connect and apply your expertise from one domain to another.
Interdisciplinary Projects: Engage in projects or initiatives that require expertise from both domains.
Continuous Learning: Stay updated with developments in all chosen domains.
ExamplesMedical Engineer: A professional with expertise in both medicine and engineering can innovate in medical device design and healthcare technology.
Environmental Economist: Combining economics with environmental science allows experts to address sustainability and policy challenges effectively.
Cognitive Neuroscientist: A cognitive neuroscientist specializing in artificial intelligence can advance the field of brain-computer interfaces.
Digital Marketer and Data Scientist: Expertise in digital marketing and data science can lead to data-driven marketing strategies and insights.
Entrepreneur and Computer Scientist: Entrepreneurial ventures in the tech industry often require founders with business acumen and technical proficiency.

Understanding the difference between T-shaped vs. X-shaped profiles

T-shaped people have now become an essential part of the business world. As the story goes, a T-shaped profile is a person that has a deep understanding and expertise in one or two areas and a broad knowledge of several other areas:


T-Shaped profiles and skills became widely popular throughout the 1990s when technical people started to get out of engineering departments to take more and more management roles.

However, as the web took over and the digital age became an integral part of the business world, another profile, an X-Shaped one started to become an essential element for a company’s success.

Drawbacks for T-Shaped profiles in the digital age

A T-Shaped profile might have been one of those profiles that thrived throughout the 1990s, however as companies evolved to become more and more entrepreneurial, innovation also required large organizations to organize most of their teams around an entrepreneurial mindset.

While a T-Shaped profile adapted well in an era of relatively fast change, it won’t adapt as well in an age of highly fast-paced evolution.

In this era, an X-Shaped who looks more like an artist or can understand several areas of your business so well will be a pivotal profile to drive your business success.

Inside an X-Shaped profile

If you want to hit it big, you need to add authoritativeness and leadership as critical skills.

That is when you make the jump from T-shaped to an X-shaped profile!


The X-shaped is an evolution of the T-shaped.

Where T-shaped understands that collaboration is a key to growth.

The X-shaped profile understands that leadership and strategic thinking are crucial to moving a small or large group toward goals that require massive action.

Thus, the X-shaped is together with a T-shaped profile and a recognized leader within the organization!

Those sorts of profiles work exceptionally well in moonshot organizations.

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset and empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles by leveraging fast-paced experimentation.

X-shaped profiles usually are firm in startups that are in the early innovative cycles, and need entrepreneurial people at their helm.

In these cases, companies leveraging a flatarchy tend to hire these people. 


T-shaped profiles, instead, might be more common in a functional-based matrix organizational structure

The whole company is organized around functional managers, who are a hybrid between product developers and marketers. 

A matrix organizational structure generally describes a business with multiple managerial accountability and responsibility. The main types of matrix structures comprise the strong matrix (authority lies with a project manager who has a senior role within the company), balanced matrix (it equally distributes power to both the project and functional manager), and weak matrix (where power lies with the functional manager completely).

Key Points about T-Shaped and X-Shaped Profiles:

  • T-Shaped Profile: A T-shaped profile refers to a professional who possesses both broad knowledge in various areas critical to the business and deep expertise in a specific field. This concept gained popularity in the 1990s as technical experts began moving into management roles.
  • Evolution to X-Shaped Profile: With the rise of the digital age and the need for innovation and entrepreneurship, the T-shaped profile began to show limitations. This led to the evolution of the X-shaped profile, which combines the attributes of T-shaped expertise with strategic thinking and leadership skills.
  • Drawbacks of T-Shaped in the Digital Age: While the T-shaped profile suited an era of relatively slower change, the rapid evolution and entrepreneurial demands of the digital age require more versatile and leadership-oriented profiles.
  • X-Shaped Profile: The X-shaped profile is an advancement of the T-shaped concept. It emphasizes the addition of leadership and strategic thinking as critical skills. This profile recognizes that collaboration (T-shaped) is important, but also understands that effective leadership and strategic direction are crucial for driving teams toward ambitious goals.
  • Moonshot Organizations: X-shaped profiles excel in organizations focused on moonshot thinking – aiming for ambitious goals that challenge the status quo and require unconventional solutions. These profiles can effectively lead and manage teams to take massive action.
  • Startup and Innovative Cycles: X-shaped profiles are commonly found in startups and early-stage innovative companies that need entrepreneurial leaders. They are well-suited to flatarchy structures, where power is distributed based on expertise and contribution rather than traditional hierarchical roles.
  • Functional-Based Matrix Organizational Structure: On the other hand, T-shaped profiles are more commonly seen in functional-based matrix organizations. These structures emphasize specialized roles and functions, with hybrid roles combining product development and marketing expertise.

Other business resources: 

Types of Organizational Structures

Organizational Structures

Siloed Organizational Structures


In a functional organizational structure, groups and teams are organized based on function. Therefore, this organization follows a top-down structure, where most decision flows from top management to bottom. Thus, the bottom of the organization mostly follows the strategy detailed by the top of the organization.



Open Organizational Structures




In a flat organizational structure, there is little to no middle management between employees and executives. Therefore it reduces the space between employees and executives to enable an effective communication flow within the organization, thus being faster and leaner.

Connected Business Frameworks

Portfolio Management

Project portfolio management (PPM) is a systematic approach to selecting and managing a collection of projects aligned with organizational objectives. That is a business process of managing multiple projects which can be identified, prioritized, and managed within the organization. PPM helps organizations optimize their investments by allocating resources efficiently across all initiatives.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

Mintzberg’s 5Ps

Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy is a strategy development model that examines five different perspectives (plan, ploy, pattern, position, perspective) to develop a successful business strategy. A sixth perspective has been developed over the years, called Practice, which was created to help businesses execute their strategies.

COSO Framework

The COSO framework is a means of designing, implementing, and evaluating control within an organization. The COSO framework’s five components are control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring activities. As a fraud risk management tool, businesses can design, implement, and evaluate internal control procedures.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

Lewin’s Change Management

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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