Better team work through divergence and convergence

Better team work through divergence and convergence

Over the years we've had the good fortune of working with promising junior programmers. The best way for a new developer to get up to speed is through pair or mob programming, and so we mobbed at least one day per week. During our cooperative sessions we've made a very interesting discovery that we now call: the Attitude model.

The Attitude model

The Attitude model is not a good model, but it's an extremely useful model. It explains and predicts how teams argue, cooperate and excel. It helps us to understand what individuals need from their team and what they bring to the table. It allows us to truly help eachother move from storming to performing.

So what is this poor but useful model like? Well, we believe that we can create two sets of properties that are both likely to appear in the same person. Every programmer, perhaps every person, has overwhelmingly more traits from one set than the other.

Divergent and convergent

On the one hand we have what we like to call "divergent" people. They tend to be open, optimistic and curious, but also quick, sloppy and careless. On the other hand we have "convergent" people. They tend to be more closed, pessimistic and inquisitive, but also paced, diligent and careful.

Mind that we speak of "tend to". It's not black and white and certainly not very exact. No person is always 100% one or the other. The more experience we have, the easier it is to avoid our pitfalls. But especially in junior developers, young people and storming teams the exponents become clear.

An example

Say a team is modelling out a piece of software. Excited to begin, the divergent team members start drawing and mapping and exploring options. The more convergent members ask questions, poke holes and start shooting down ideas. This is frustrating for the divergent, because they feel they are being constrained. As if the emergency brake is on. They start ignoring or, even worse, arguing with the convergent. The session spirals downward and everyone leaves exhausted, unfulfilled and resentful.

If you don't recognize this then I'm very happy for you and have little to offer. But if this is even remotely familiar then I have good news. You can do something about it. There are ways to turning this spiral upward.

The short of it? Team work comes first.

The long of it? Join us for one of our workshops! You'll experience first-hand, in a controlled setup, the differences between the two modes and what you can do to make the most of your time together.
And more to come

Photo courtesy of Hudson Hintze at

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