Different People, Different Strengths

I’ve been musing over types of people on projects lately. This morning, my husband and I exhibited two common types: the serially, walk-through-the-whole-thing-systematically type (hubby), and the big picture, can’t-wait-to-see-it-put-together type (me). See Do Your Interview Questions Discriminate For or Against Your Needs? for more information. Mark’s a Guardian (SJ in MBTI terms), I’m a Rational (NT in MBTI terms). Here’s what happened.

It’s been humid in Boston for days (weeks?), and we had another fan (still in the box) for the workout area, waiting to be put together. Mark normally puts things together, because he has the patience to read and follow all the directions. I normally leave out an early step in my excitement to finish. Since we know that, we can work well together. Mark usually asks me to read step 2 or 3 again. (It doesn’t matter how many steps. I always have to read steps 2 or 3 again.) But today, I decided I wasn’t going to wait for him to put the fan together. I needed a fan now.

I have the fan almost all put together. There’s an extra part. I know, on my internal checklist, that extra parts are No Good. I won’t throw it away; I know there’s a place for that part. Mark has been working out, watching me assemble the fan. He’s done and walks over to me. He says, “Did you read step 2?” I proudly reply, “Of course. I read all the steps.” He smiles and says, “Did you do step 2?” I reply, “Sure.” “How about step 3? Did you do that one too?” I checked. Uh oh. I missed step 2, and had moved onto step 3, thinking it was step 2.

I’m not stupid, and I am mechanically inclined. But I do have a hard time wading through directions. Mark likes following directions. We bring different strengths when we work together.

Our different strengths mean we aren’t fungible (interchangeable). It means that if we were to both work on a project, I would have the ideas for which tests would be manual step-by-step, and Mark might be able to develop and execute them. Mark would know where we’d need exploratory testing, I would perform it. I might talk about a feature, Mark would be able to specify it in excruciating detail. I would see the design in my head, Mark would help me write it down so that other people could see it too. In fact, when we worked on our house renovation, those were precisely the roles we took.

Pairing dissimilar types can be useful on a project. Even if people don’t specifically work in pairs, having multiple types of people helps the project complete different types of work. If you have all similar people, remember to hire different types (if you can), the next time you have an open req. Even without open reqs, you can encourage people to take other roles, as a way to help other people test their work. Sometimes, I pull on my detail hat and say, “What would Mark do now?” I’m not always completely successful, but I have better results by thinking of what other people would do, instead of just thinking about the work in my normal way.

People with different capabilities and perspectives add considerable value to a project. If you’re on a project that’s stuck, look to see if you have enough different capabilities and perspectives. If not, consider changing the people, or asking some people to act as if they have a different perspective. At the least, you’ll uncover something about the sticking points in the project.

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