Incrementalists vs. Completionists

I have just finished the book ‘Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager’ by Michael Lopp and I would like to recap the idea behind the 2 identified types of ploblem solvers on a development team. These are their characteristics:

  • Incrementalist: They are driven by constantly making small forward increments. They are aware of available resources and the landscape in which they operate at any time. Since they know that there is no final solution, they are good brainstormers to come up with quick solutions. They love discussions and drive progress.
  • Completionist: They need time to figure out the plan to analyse and solve a problem before they start moving in a direction. They apply a strategic vision to integrate their solution into the greater picture.  If a Completionist is quiet, is does not mean he has nothing to say. It is just unlikely for him to talk about something without a fully formed plan. After having thought all through, the Completionist knows exactly what to do.  It is the architect type of guy striving for a perfect longtime solution.

In the end both types like to get stuff done. The difference is just how they get there and that is exactly the point around which both regularly argue with one another.

If you think about your team and who shows tendencies towards one of the two types, how can this insight make your team communication and problem solving habits more effective? As a team lead you definitely need both types and it is your responsibility to engage both in a healthy discussion.