Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Myers-Briggs "Lifestyle" dimension meets Agile & Lean

I was thinking this morning about how Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) play into our receptiveness and ability to thrive in agile environments and further, into lean approaches to software development.

I think much has been written about the classic programmer profile: INTJ: Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging. The poster-child programmer is a loan wolf who uses his analytical skills in a controlled environment to produce excellent software.

From an agile perspective, introverts are, at least in theory, less likely to be amenable to or effective at pairing.I'm not sure this is a particularly apt conclusion, but for now, I'll shelve that thought.

This morning, I turned my thoughts to the last dimension, the so-called "Lifestyle" dimension. That is, Judging vs. Perceiving. From wikipedia:

People with a preference for Judging prefer matters to be decided; to start tasks in good time, well ahead of a deadline; to have clear plans that they prefer not to be distracted from; and they can sometimes seem inflexible in this regard. Those whose preference is Perceiving are happier to leave matters open, for further input; they may want to leave finishing a task until close to the deadline, and be energised by a late rush of information and ideas; and they are readier to change plans if new information comes along. They may sometimes seem
too flexible for their Judging peers.

So: Judging = Waterfall; Perceiving = Agile.

But wait. Isn't Agile just a shorter planning cycle to deal with? "matters to be decided" at the beginning of the iteration; "clear plans", "no distraction". These seem part and parcel of iteration-based development - scrum, for example.

It seems to me that "lean" approaches like not having iterations; just-in-time analysis; polyskilled, adaptable "resources" (aka people) are a "judging" person's worst nightmare. These judgers have already adapted to a shorter planning horizon; now you're asking for a transition from short planning horizon to flexibility - beyond their comfort level.

The challenge is to introduce lean approaches with an understanding of each participant's comfort level.