A Tale of Two Worlds

Strengths finder informed me a while ago that I have the Individualization strength.

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or "types" because you don't want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person's style, each person's motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships.

I've always found people interesting. What I've always found more intriguing is how people react to situations differently. My spidey sense was pulsing this week after my yogurt made it into the trash after our monthly Friday clean-out.

Clearly a group of people had went through the fridge and threw away everything that had expired. But for the yogurt eaters out there: it was 2 days over the annoyingly-inaccurate-static-expiration date. My current record for eating spoiled yogurt is 36 days past due.

So what's the point? Let's look at the team dynamics.


Developers open up the fridge and inspect each item. They live in the grey. What does that mean? They have fluid rules. Is it moldy? Does it smell? Is it mine? They employ logic to separate the good from the bad, and to identify the unknown. When they aren't sure they seek more information to answer the question: to trash or not to trash..


How do project managers clean the fridge? They send out an email letting people know it's fridge clean out time, and promptly clean the fridge when that time hits. Their rules: trash it if it's past the annoying inaccurate static expiration date and if it's questionable trash it. They live in the black and white.


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Yes, I did mange to revive it from the trash, and place it safely back in the fridge. I also just got done eating that yogurt and it was splendid.

What did I learn from this? People need different process things in order to be successful. I couldn't bear to use the word process for fear of someone trying to document it. Both teams technically were successful but also failed to please everyone. Since the teams have no balance the extreme will win. I think this is why I have so much trouble with structure, process, and the living within an Agile methodology.

This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively
that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

Teams are successful based on their chemistry. If you remove the most experienced or skillful person from an Agile team how would they be successful? A group of N people can not predict the future no matter how hard they try. In order to be successful you need balance and chemistry. That means you need a good ratio of leadership, experience, knowledge, and skills. If you are weighed either way the extreme will define the team. No process can detect imbalance only people can. The ideal team is founded by members with equivalent knowledge, skills & experience. When you mix those together you get respect, natural roles & responsibilities, and synergy.

Why did our fridge clean out process fail? A while ago we switched from "functional teams" (product managers, designers, developers, etc.) to "alphabetical order." I wish I could say we made a change to solve the extremes problem but I would be lying. We originally switched so we could schedule the entire year at once (less people per month). Unfortunately the decision to go the alphabetical ordering route does not guarantee an even distribution of people who think differently.

As a result, I now need to add a month to the annoyingly inaccurate expiration date on my yogurts.

Nick Capito

Professional developer in all things generic. Good at AngularJS, CSS3 , Sass, .NET, Azure, Node. Love dogs. In an alternate live I would have been an American Cesar Millan.

Richmond, VA http://nixo.us