Agile and Introversion
I don’t really like labels. Particularly labels which are derived from multiple-choice tests. I’m not a huge Myers-Briggs fan. Maybe it’s because those things remind me of magazines I read as an early teen that promised to tell whether you were a ‘David Essex’ or a ‘Bay City Rollers’ kind of girl. They just seem a bit over-simplistic and I have trouble thinking of a situation where the rigorous use of questionnaires, particularly for diagnostics, wouldn’t be complimented by something a bit more…well…qualitative.
I do, however, love to use them as a thinking tool. Even the questions on the ‘tests’ themselves make me think about how I (and others) perceive and interact with the world. I use them, think about them, then I throw away the classification. At the moment I’m thinking about introversion.
Ken Clyne (@kclyne) started me off on this when we pair-facilitated a session recently. He was surprised that in a recent keynote the speaker had a slide referring to “Introvert challenges” (and didn’t mean it as “here are some challenges you might encounter if you are an introvert”). We talked about how the audience would have reacted if the slide had said “Female challenges” or <insert your favourite inappropriate stereotype here> challenges.
Delving just a tiny bit deeper, I watched Susan Cain’s TED talk and began to wonder whether not only modern, western culture was biased towards extroversion, but indeed that Agile shared that same bias. We have practices like the Daily Scrum/Stand-ups, Collaborative planning, Retrospectives, all of which are highly collaborative. I occasionally see people who are new to agile really struggle with this level of collaboration.
Don’t forget that I am at the more extreme end on collaboration – I hold a PhD in collaborative software development; One of my findings was that expert pair programmers collaborate intensely on almost every subtask they embark upon; I think (or did) that a side-benefit of team retrospectives was to have a ‘place to take a breath before sprinting again’. Ironic then, that I find myself best thinking about collaboration in a quiet room on my own. That I find conferences so exhausting that after the first day I start to get headaches and feel ‘spaced out’. That these days I favour small groups to end-of-day social events because I don’t have the band-width to continue interacting with lots of people. I can only begin to imagine how this would feel for someone much more ‘introvert’ than I.
One thought-provoking suggestion from Keith Braithwaite (@keithb_b) was “Maybe this is why ‘sustainable pace’ is both so important (introverts have recovery time) and so overlooked (by extroverts)”.
Personally, I am reflecting on how to better cater for the whole scale in both my training courses and my consultancy work. How to best provide a space for people to take a break from intensive collaboration. I’m glad that I have found I already (unwittingly) do this to some extent. I’m mad that I haven’t thought about it more deeply before.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas too.
p.s. I took two online tests, one labelled me as ‘extrovert’ and the other as ‘omnivert’ (who knew?!). Of course it’s possible/likely that doing the first test influenced my responses on the second.