Do Engineers Like Agile Development?


Do Engineers Like Agile Development?


I’m an engineer. I come from a long line of engineers. I married an engineer, and two of my three kids are engineers. I’ve worked with engineers my entire career, so I consider myself quite in touch with a typical engineer’s personality.

So, do engineers like agile development? If we look at the typical engineer’s personality, there will be traits that align with agile values and other areas that take engineers out of their comfort zone.

One of the most common personality type tools is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that results in 16 MBTI types, depending on four scales, which we’ll review below.

Engineers usually fall into the Introversion and Thinking categories. In the article, “Personality Types and Agile Development,” Richard Banks, as an INTJ, believes his own personality type is a great match for agile because INTJs are adaptable.

Banks suggests that an ISTJ would be more suited to Waterfall development because of the tendency to prefer a more methodical, traditional approach.

I can tell you as an ISTJ myself, I do prefer a plan and structure, but I believe agile methodologies do give us that, just not in the same manner as Waterfall.

With that, let’s take a look at the four Myers-Briggs scales to see how a typical engineer personality may or may not align.   

Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E)

The first scale is Introversion vs. Extraversion. Introverts get their energy from being alone. Most of us introverts prefer to work alone rather than as part of a group.

Think back when you had a school assignment to be done as a group. If you were an introvert, you probably inwardly groaned and just figured you’d need to do the lion’s share of the work yourself to ensure it was done “right.”

It’s not that we don’t like people, it’s just that we don’t want to have to depend on them.

The “whole team” approach used in agile is probably one of those areas that takes many engineers out of their comfort zone.

That being said, engineers are known to want autonomy, so the emphasis on self-organizing teams will most likely appeal to engineers, as long as they feel good about who’s on their team.

Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)

The Sensing vs. Intuition scale describes how we take in information. Do we prefer using external sources, such as our senses (S), or do we rely more on gut instincts and intuition (N)?

Those with a high “N” value are more visionaries and are comfortable with abstract, futuristic thinking. Those with a high “S” value are concrete and realistic, giving attention to present details.

I believe either of these personality preferences would feel comfortable with agile development. Though, strong S people like detail, and that detail emerges in agile development before development work is done.

However, S people may feel uncomfortable starting development without a solid framework or architecture in place.

Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)

Thinkers and feelers are distinguished based on how they make decisions. Thinkers make decisions based on logic and reason and feelers rely more on subjective feelings based on their value system.

Engineers are almost always strong T personality types. They are logical and rational.

Though this type of personality works well with coding tasks and getting work done, engineers may feel uncomfortable with some of the team-building activities encouraged on agile teams.

In my experience, engineers bond best by solving tough problems together and may view an outing as a waste of time.

Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

The Judging and Perceiving categories have to do with how much structure and planning in daily life is preferable. Those who have strong J personality types like schedules, plans and lists. Those who are stronger P types act spontaneously and decide things more at the last minute.

Agile development teaches us to plan “just in time,” remain adaptable and accept frequent change. This would cater more to the P personality type.

However, the J personality type takes great pleasure in bringing tasks to closure, so the agile style of decomposition with a specific set of tasks to accomplish will tend to align well with engineers who have a strong J personality type.

In sum, there are bound to be some things that engineers like about working on an agile team and some things that make them uncomfortable.

It would be best for the Scrum Master or agile leader to recognize the individual personality preferences of each team member and perhaps discuss as a team.

While each individual is different, when they all understand and respect one another's tendencies and preferences, they will undoubtedly become a stronger team.



 

Yvette Francino has more than 30 years in the software development industry, and is an independent consultant, experienced agile leader, coach, author and trainer in various methodologies including SAFe, Scrum, Kanban and large-scale custom methodologies.

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