As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been listening to Susan Cain’s, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” I also mentioned that I’d be saying more on the topic, and here comes some more. Today it’s going to be the idea of Agile for introverts.
In recent weeks, I’ve spent some time running a bootcamp of sorts that covered, among other things, XP and Scrum principles. Personally, I find that I light up when talking about clean coding practices and that I’m a bit more tepid when it comes to explaining process particulars. Reflecting one evening, it struck me that a lot of the practices involved in Scrum ceremonies and some of the XP practices aim to draw people “out of their shells.” In other words, a lot of agile is the Extrovert Ideal brought to programming.
This made me wonder what some Scrum ceremonies and/or XP practices might look like if they were introvert-friendly. That is, how could one accomplish the goals of these activities in ways that didn’t assume “let’s all get together and collaborate always!” was the right way to think.
What is introvert-friendly?
Before I can offer thoughts on how to make something introvert-friendly, I want to define what I mean by that. I feel it’s important to do so because the definition most people would assign by default is “things that don’t require interaction with others,” and that’s not right.
I’m going to go out in a limb here a bit and assume that I’m a good representative of the introvert population as described by Cain. I don’t feel that this is too much of a reach, since I got a 20 out of 20 on the informal “are you an introvert” quiz. So, I’ll explain my own psyche and trust that you find it reasonably representative of how you feel if you are also an introvert.
I don’t seek to minimize social interaction, per se, but I do shy away from unpredictable situations with a large amount of stimulus. I also have an intense preference for a sort of social order that is predicated upon minimized conflict and a world in which information and opinions aren’t generally shared unless solicited. You can actually read back through my blog posts and see a lot of this described before I’d ever heard of Susan Cain’s book.
- Appeasers, Crusaders, and Why Meetings Usually Suck
- Why Social Situations Exhaust Introverts: A Programmer’s Take
- Meetings and Introverts: Strangers in Strange Lands
There are probably more, but these certainly capture some of the themes at play here. And from this basis, I propose the following concepts as introvert-friendly.
- Differences of opinion are resolved by folks having time to process different viewpoints and build a case rather than by extemporaneous argument/debate.
- Meetings and gatherings are limited in size.
- In professional situations, it’s better to remain silent unless you have something high value to say, especially in larger groups.
- Interpersonal interaction is primarily for camaraderie and logistical resolution (e.g. knowledge transfer or merging code), rather than important work.
- The most productive work happens in a state of flow when you can tune the world out and concentrate.
- It’s worth letting a group make a sub-optimal choice to preserve social harmony.
- It’s good to be able to opt out of groups that frequently make sub-optimal choices.
Notice that none of this is, “I want to be home, alone, always, with no interaction.” That’s not introversion — that’s being a recluse. Rather, this is “I prefer orderly interactions, a cap on external stimulus, and time and space to form my ideas.”