But how can we make it work? Merely finishing the task the pair is responsible for is not enough to call it a success. Pairing is much more than just getting together to complete a task: it's an opportunity to strengthen relations with your teammate; a chance to teach and learn, not only technically, but also culturally; to understand what your partner craves, what motivates and what discourages her/him.
Marcos Brizeno, a brazilian Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks Recife, mentions in one of his posts the challenges faced when pairing, which for him are:
Truth is, there's no recipe or formula to make the practice of pairing more enjoyable. But I'll try here to expose and discuss some actions we can take to improve the pairing experience and to help overcoming some of the challenges raised by Marcos.
#1 - Do not centralize driving
The team member who feels more comfortable with the development environment tends naturally to centralize the driving, in part because the other one usually thinks that things will slow down if she/he takes control of the keyboard. The downside is that the partner that is less used to the environment will stay the same at the end of the experience. Setting a time interval to change who's taking control may help balance driving.
#2 - Manage the focus together
For several reasons, one teammate may be more focused than the other at certain times. If this becomes a problem, the more focused teammate should call to responsibility, expose the situation, and discuss a solution. It may be very complicated to wait for your partner to recover focus by her/himself, and losing your own focus won't help either. Techniques such as Pomodoro can help solving lack of focus, but the pair should walk together towards the best solution.
#3 - Avoid working alone
Sometimes your partner may need to be absent for a while. When this happens, try to wait for her/him to come back. Try to do something else to help the project or the company, or use the chance to take care of personal stuff. Of course, factors such as sense of urgency should be taken into account; if the activity can't be stopped for any reason you may carry on, but be sure to pass context of what was done when your partner comes back.
#4 - Alternate moments of concentration and relaxation
Focus is important, but too much focus is harmful. People are not robots who can work for 8 hours or more with no interruptions. Do periodic intervals and put the work entirely aside during them. Try to do stuff together, like having a conversation about subjects in common, playing video games, or going out for coffee.
#5 - Celebrate your achievements!
At the end of one step, or of the whole pairing activity itself, it may be quite rewarding to take a few steps back and contemplate what was built or achieved. Celebrate! It may also be a good time to share the results with the rest of the team.
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