New Years Day desk restructuring.
Rather than simply encouraging team members to pair when they could they adopted a 3 month period where nearly all activities across the software delivery team were carried out by pairs. There was plenty of discussion during the presentation about the various permutations and strategies adopted to ensure success. Although traditional XP pairing (two people working together with a single computer to solve a problem) was tried, so too were other techniques such as side by side pairing (two people working alongside each other to solve a problem by partition, XP style pairing and frequent close communication) and mob programming (single room, big screen, shared computers with representatives from several disciplines working closely to solve a problem).
The benefits of shorter feedback loops and better quality collaboration were stressed over email ping-pong or large meetings. The business benefit of the experiment was improved knowledge transfer in an environment with a high proportion of contractor staff. There was discussion of an interesting metric in the form of a matrix of skills and knowledge levels by team member and a drive to use pairing to reduce 'skill silo' risks. The experience levels of the participants making up a pair was felt to give different benefits; from exploration in novice-novice pairs through “up-skilling” in expert-average pairs through to crackling productivity in expert-expert pairs. The diversity of perspective was felt to be a particular benefit when pairing across disciplines with the cost of hand-offs between activities reduced.
Write-up by Neil McLaughlin
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