Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Team and introverts

I have several friends who are introverts.  And, as I get older, I recognize my own introvert side. And I appreciate it more, and accept it more. (The MBTI says I am an extrovert.)  It is to one introvert friend that I dedicate this post, a friend who has given me so many insights into people, and is the person I know who is most insightful about people.

One of the issues with Scrum is that the people in the "team" do not feel and act as a Team.
This lack of a sense of being a real Team is often key to why a Scrum implementation may be mediocre.

(And let me go further. One of the great values of Scrum is that allows people, if they want to, to have great working relationships, honest and productive ones, with a small group of people. In a very satisfying way. Srum won't make it happen, but Scrum tries to facilitate it happening. And it happens often. Better relationships with more fun. So, we are also in search of this.)

There are many root causes for this (for a lack of a sense of being in a real Team).

One of the root causes is that the team members may include both extroverts and introverts.   Now, as such, having both introverts and extroverts on a Team is not the real problem. But let me discuss....

A good discussion of these two types is here.

As I typically see it, extroversion is dominant in North American society, and perhaps yet more so in US society.  Business managers tend to be extroverts, for example.

Fairly often, in a Scrum team, both the Product Owner and the ScrumMaster are extroverts.  And fairly often, most of the other team members are introverts.  At work in software development, introversion tends to mean being quiet, slower to explain, less interruptive in conversational style, and not explaining or sharing many things that one is thinking or feeling.

So, just from what I have said, you can see that extroverts and introverts have a good chance to see the Team differently.  Of course, any two people can see the Team differently, but an extrovert and an introvert, being less likely to explicitly talk about it, are more likely to remain with differences after some time. Or more differences.

Now, contrary to what some people think, introverts do not always like to be alone.  But they tend to want to manage their 'together' time and their 'alone' time in a different way than an extrovert would.

Similarly, introverts tend to take longer to 'get to know' the other team members (if they didn't before). And tend to not 'open up' in the Team until they have 'gotten to know' them.

Also, some strong introverts are more likely never to have been on a good Team before. For example, they may not have been on a successful sports team.  This can of course happen with an extrovert too, but I think it is somewhat less likely.  If you do not have the tacit knowledge of a good Team, it is harder to assist in forming a good Team.


My conclusions from experience:
* Both extroverts and introverts can form good teams.  And can do so together.
* Introverts tend to form as a Team more slowly.  This delay is not a hugely significant factor, except that it must be respected.
* Extroverts tend not to understand the dynamics of team formation for introverts.
* Extroverts tend to not appreciate that their own talkative qualities are felt as intrusive and impolite by introverts. (Similarly, introverts may fail to appreciate how their behavior or quietness can be perceived by extroverts.)
* Some of the Scrum and agile ideas and practices can seem intrusive to introverts, especially if forced too much and not explained well. And if no accommodations are considered for introverts. 
* Addressing these issues may take some time and effort, but it is well worth it. When extroverts and introverts appreciate each others' qualities, it can lead to a much stronger Team very quickly.

Again, people who have been in a good Team can appreciate that there is something magical about it. Joyful, fun, fulfilling. In part, it is the satisfaction of doing good work together. However you describe it, it is a good thing. And we want everyone, of whatever type, to experience this part of life in a better way. We think it is possible for almost everyone.

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