Something Worth Listening to . . . Understanding Each Other’s Viewpoints Agile Testing

There are several methods of understanding viewpoints; these include psychometric methods such as the Belbin Team Roles and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI). These are well explained elsewhere, so I shall only summarize them here.

Belbin discussed the way people behave when working in teams and suggested that a balance between the roles supports success.

For example, plants have new ideas while completer-finishers want to finish to fine detail. If you have too many plants in the team you’ll never finish anything, but if you only had completer-finishers, you might not have so many new ideas. Each person in the team takes an assessment, and this provides a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the team as a whole [72]. Most people will score to show a mix of the team roles.

In contrast, the MBTI looks at people’s personalities and suggests that communication styles and preferences follow certain patterns. A person may be introvert or extrovert, for example, and that will alter the preferred amount of interaction. Another factor is the degree of analytical or empathetic approach that someone prefers. The four pairs are as follows:

  • E and I;Extroversion(prefers social interaction)
    versus Introversion(quiet and private);
  • S and N;Sensing(experience and practicality)versus iNtuition(novelty and aspiration);
  • Tand F;Thinking(analytic or critical approach)
    versus Feeling(sympathizing and appreciative approach);
  • J and P–Judgement(firmness and control)versus erception(flexibility and spontaneity).

With each person being assigned one value from each pair, this gives Myers Briggs sixteen distinct personality types. Beware of how you interpret these:

The communication preferences of these groups may be radically different. However, if you are going to look at MBTI, beware of stereotyping! It is worth noting that just because someone is in a particular job, it does not mean they are a particular type, and just because someone appears to be a particular type does not mean they will be a success in an apparently related job. Remember, if 10% of computer staff are INTJ, then 90% are not INTJ. Similarly, being a woman does not mean you cannot be an ESTJ. As with all of these types of test, make sure it is administered by someone who is suitably trained and can interpret the results properly.

Notice how use of the Six Hats and the Ishikawa fishbones would encourage people out of their roles as they allow everyone to contribute ideas, facts, and commentary in a controlled way that might be more acceptable to some personality types; an introverted team member could add his or her ideas quietly to the fishbone rather than having to participate in a direct discussion. The roles and latest thinking are described on the Web sites in the references. There are other useful models such as looking at attitudes to innovation and learning styles which are summarized.

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