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Does Pair Programming Actually Work & How it Impacts?

Pair programming the word sounds confusing, but it’s actually not. Understanding the concept of pair programming will help you organize your work correctly and not give up if it gets hard, and following the goals will improve the quality of the software and build up the team process. 

So, let’s see how pair programming works and help you achieve these goals? 

1. Knowledge Exchange

First, the most prominent and least controversial benefit- knowledge sharing. When you work in pairs, you’re actually working with 2 or 3 experts on one piece of code allows the team to share programming experience and avoid knowledge stagnation. In addition, two heads increase the chance of finding a decent solution. Finally, different backgrounds and perspectives lead to more options being considered.

Practical Tips

Feel free to join in on tasks where you don’t know the subject area or the technology involved. However, if you work only in a familiar area, you will lose the opportunity to learn new things and share knowledge in a team.

If you notice that someone on the team prefers to work on the same topics all the time, ask him to summarize and share knowledge. It will also help create a skills matrix that will list each member’s business and IT competencies and their strengths and weaknesses in those areas. If you place such a matrix on the wall in your workspace, you can improve knowledge sharing within the team.

2. Reflections

Pair programming pushes us to discuss different solutions and approaches beyond the monologue in our heads. Pronunciation and explanation contribute to the active reflection on the chosen option. It doesn’t always apply to code or technical design, but it does apply to user stories or the value they bring.

Practical Tips

To create an atmosphere where everyone feels free to speak openly and ask questions, you need trust between you. Therefore, adequately built relationships are so meaningful in a team. Set aside time for personal communication and feedback.

3. Concentration

It is much easier to approach things in a structured way when two of you: can clearly explain why you are doing something and in what direction you are moving. When working alone, it’s easier to get distracted: for example, quickly try a new approach without much thought and fall into the rabbit hole for a few hours. A partner will help you avoid such rabbit holes and return to what is crucial for completing the task. Both of you can support each other and stay focused.

Practical Tips

Make a plan together. Discuss the problem and consider steps to achieve the goal. Write down each step on sticky notes (or in a task manager if you work remotely), keep them visible and do them one by one. Try combining this technique with the Pomodoro Technique and complete one step with one tomato. Never forget that communication is the most important thing. Discuss your work and demand clarification from each other.

4. Code review on the go

When we are in a couple, we have four eyes for small and significant cases: we can catch more mistakes on the go especially while corporate designing services, not after the work is completed.

Refactoring is an essential part of writing code, and hence also of pair programming. It’s easier to improve the code when someone is behind you because you can, for example, immediately discuss the approach or any element names in the code.

Practical Tips

Ask each other questions! Questions are the most powerful tool for understanding what you are doing and choosing the best solution. If you find it difficult to read the code, try doing it differently to make it more straightforward.

5. Combining two thought patterns

As we mentioned earlier, considering the classic Leader/Navigator model, collaboration allows you to get different views on the code. The Host’s brain usually works in tactical mode, thinking about the details and current lines of code. While the Navigator’s brain thinks more strategically and takes in the bigger picture, marks next steps and ideas on sticky notes. Can one person combine both modes at the same time? Of course not! Therefore, such a “double” look improves the quality of the code, as it includes consideration of both details and the big picture.

Practical Tips

Remember to change keyboard positions and roles regularly. It will help to cheer up, not get tired and practice both approaches.

As the “Navigator,” avoid tactical thinking, parsing the details of the code – what the “Leader” does. Your job is to step back a couple of steps and complete your pair on tactics and medium-term planning.

6. Collective code ownership

Collective code ownership eliminates the idea of ​​individual module ownership. Instead, the source code belongs to the entire team, and anyone can make changes to it at any time.

Martin Fowler

Collaboration means that at least two people have reviewed each line of code. This increases the chances that any member of the team will not be afraid to edit the code at any time. So the code becomes more consistent than it could be with one developer.

Practical Tips

Pair programming alone does not guarantee that you will achieve collective code ownership. You need to swap code pairs and pieces to prevent knowledge stagnation.

7. Setting WIP limits for a team.

Limiting the number of incomplete tasks, as one of the basic principles of Kanban, increases the productivity of employees. Following the WIP limit technique, an acronym for Work In progress helps you focus on critical tasks. Multitasking is inefficient even for one person, what to say about the whole team. Pair programming allows you to limit the number of tasks being worked on in parallel, increasing overall focus. It guarantees the continuity of the workflow without pitfalls.

Practical Tips

Limit the to-do list to a few developers and make it public in your team’s workspace (or task manager). Check the list before setting new tasks. This discipline helps to reinforce the habit of working in pairs.

8. Quick adaptation of new employees

Since collaboration facilitates knowledge sharing, it can also help with adaptation. With the help of a partner, newcomers can immerse themselves in the project and the company‘s affairs. This will help the newcomer’s workflow: people need time to get to know each other, and changing the team allows you to speed up the process due to constant communication, which is becoming much more.

Practical Tips

It’s not enough to find a partner for new hires to magically get them on track. Make sure they have an introduction, a vision of the big picture before their first pair programming session, and allow extra time for adaptation. This will make it easier for them to follow the advice, contribute to the collaboration, and get the most out of it. Put in a couple of beginners, and be sure – they will be able to work independently later.

Make an adaptation plan with a list of topics. For some topics, schedule special (thematic) sessions for which a beginner can collaborate to work in pairs. If something is learned during the joint work – cross it off the list. Thus, progress in adaptation will be visible to each team member.

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