Agile in Motion: Beginner's Mind and Promiscuous Pairing

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  • one person.
  • Assigning tasks to the least-qualified implementer minimizes the preconceptions that the pair brings to the task at hand. It also provides the most learning where it is most needed. In time, this results in the greatest total knowledge of each individual--he learns the whole system, not just his area of specialty.
  • Beginner's mind is helped by interruptions and changes in direction. These actually serve to increase your velocity. They only become a problem if complete changes in direction happen more frequently than about half the mean time to complete a task. Small, completable tasks can reduce this time down to about fifteen minutes. This works well in production support, ops, and similar departments.
  • The more rapid learning and communication requires trust. That, in turn, tends to build trust.

Some of the results teams consistently see when applying promiscuous pairing include:

  • Reduced ramp-up time for new hires (two to three weeks to full productivity is the norm).
  • Dramatically increased capabilities of all team members. They are usually specialist level in many different fields, simultaneously.
  • Increased employee retention, as they are learning at a rate they have never before experienced.
  • Increased team conflict at first, and an opportunity to get past it. Things that would normally take months to surface, are forced into the open in days. The team gets to deal with the conflicts as conflicts and fix them then move past. They don't remain unstated.
  • Faster, more effective learning.

These are not always advantages for all teams. They are the consistent results, and an aware team can make them all be advantages.

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