How Agile Solves Awkwardness

Not graceful; ungainly
Not dexterous; clumsy
Difficult to handle or manage
Difficult to effect; uncomfortable
Marked by or causing embarrassment or discomfort

These are the terms used by The Free Dictionary to describe the word awkwardness.

The fair part of our energy happens to waste on handling of different “hard” personalities and unwanted behaviors.
How do we recognize them? How do we deal with them?
How can we save the energy wasted there?

Marie G. McIntyre Ph.D. at list seven types of personalities that, how she describes – drive managers crazy. The description is given on how to recognize them and how to deal with them.  “Driving managers crazy” is actually a side effect comparing to the negative impact on business culture and consequently the business results.

Here are the 7 awkwards:

Slackers – escape from work due to different reasons.

Space Cadets – abstract thinkers who are more focused on ideas and possibilities than on facts and action steps.

Power Grabbers – have a high need for control and don’t want anyone directing their actions.

Loners – focusing on solitary pursuits in settings where they can concentrate and are seldom interrupted.

Drama Queens (or Kings) – the goal is to get attention. They are rather insecure and only feel important when being in focus.

Challengers – high need for control. When they feel that others are attempting to constrain or direct their behavior, they become rebellious.

Clingers – a strong need for safety. The primary emotional driver is fear: fear of making mistakes, fear of losing support, fear of disapproval, fear of being disliked.

As mentioned, they all have in common being the energy drain for others around.

I was thinking about this behavioral model from dr. McIntyre, and analyzed some cases from own experience, but instead of defining the strategy and action for myself, I tried to realize, what is missing in our environment and how agile may help.

Agile fosters team work based on visibility and transparency. It visualizes work to be done through the product backlog, and iteration backlog. With practice of short daily status meetings, everyone’s progress is visible as well. This uncovers (low) contribution of Slackers and expose Loners to the rest of the team. It also prevents Drama Queens not to jeopardize time of others, since a daily meeting is short where everyone is granted a piece of “air-time”.

Agile is focused to deliver as highest value as possible. Therefore a strong mechanism to prioritize exists. This helps Space Cadets to stay away from wandering around, but to focus on actions, and also to Slackers who have less arguments and excuses for doing “something” else.

Agile principles and methodology (e.g. Scrum framework) tends to have very few prescribed roles and artifacts, but they are clear. The clear roles with a clear working agreement founded on mutual team members respect and trust, channel Power Grabbers and Challengers’ behavior. If they still make troubles within a team with their desire to control, the team would do better without them. To recall – Agile is the culture of Collaboration and cultivation, not control (see the Culture post).

One of the agile foundations is orientation to people (Individuals and interactions over processes and tools). This fosters trust, respect and tolerance, finding the gaps in process and structures, rather than pointing a finger around. It creates environment where it’s safe to fail, which helps Clingers to reduce their inner fear and helps them to open up and dare to do things.

This is summarized in the following table:


There are numerous further agile practices which can help us to deal with unwanted behaviors and awkward persons. It seems that this is what are they actually invented for.

Leave a Reply