Stephen A. Fuqua (SAF) is a Bahá'í, software developer, and conservation and interfaith advocate in the DFW area of Texas.

Agile Introverts

May 19, 2013

A co-worker overheard the comment that "agile [software development] is not always a good fit for introverts," or something along those lines, while listening to a webinar on agile testing. On the surface, it is hard to deny that claim. Right there in the Agile Manifesto we have two obvious yellow or even red flags:

  • Individuals and interactions, and
  • Customer collaboration

Now jumping over to the Principles, we find two more orange flags:

  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

We find this drive for a close interaction in all of the agile methodologies, and that can scare some people. In XP, we even have pair programming: sitting not just near, but right alongside, another programmer.

But for the majority of introverts, I suspect that working in an agile environment will be no worse, and possibly better than, working in a waterfall setting or cowboy culture. Let's go back to the Manifesto and Principles, starting at the top: individuals and interactions over processes and tools. If you are a strong introvert, and your organization is dedicated to this Agile idea — and more importantly, dedicated to creating an environment where each employee will thrive — then the management should adapt process in favor of individual, for example when evaluating adoption of pair programming. (On the other hand, an introvert might think carefully before accepting a job where pair programming is the rule).

And that leads me back to the Agile Principles, namely, "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done." That speaks for itself, doesn't it?

But what about those face-to-face conversations? In my own experience, most introverts are actually quite happy to have a face-to-face conversation with one or two other people. Perhaps this won't work "all the time" in the literal sense – but I'm guessing that the majority of extroverts don't want face-time, all-the-time, either.

Now, I straddle the divide. Many people never realize that I'm more intro- than extraverted, because I socialize easily when I need to. So perhaps I am not the best judge, and yet I will still step out and say: when faced with agile, introverts should set aside the fear and judge Agile from personal experience instead. After all, the world could use some more agile introverts.

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