And, it stresses the importance of an agile practice (not talked about directly in Scrum) called “pairing.”
This blog entry could take a dozen different tangents on this topic; however, I promise to try to stay on point about what I am trying to get across. Yes, O people who know Scrum… Scrum does not talk about “engineering practices” (this is by design).
So why am I even breaking out of the “World of Scrum” to talk about pairing? Because, my friend, Scrum must play in a big bad world of Software Development and well, people need to realize this.
So… what is pairing and why is it important?
I am going to tell you my definition from experience.
My idea of pairing is NOT having two people sit together for 8 (or more) hours a day at a computer banging away at code code code and not focusing on anything else. Nor does my definition of this include sitting by the computer together (as a pair… getting this??) for 3 hours a day joking around, surfing the Net, or playing online games. As cool as that may be to get paid for (and yes, some gamers who use Scrum in their development shop may have this opportunity and not even realize it!), neither of these two things describe pairing for me.
Here is an example we can use that is “outside” the Software Development world.
This site is developed using Scrum as a framework.
Do we do it perfectly? Nope.
Do we continue to strive to improve? Sure.
Now… please stick with me through this. There is a point. I promise.
Right now, remember… the site is developed and maintained by only two people (Myself and Tony). And, this is the process we go through to get you the comic strip and blog on a weekly basis:
Usually by Thursday evening, I get a rough idea about what I want to write about the following week (to be published on Monday evenings). I email the idea over to Tony. On Friday, Tony and I answer any clarifying questions about what we will try to get across… and by Saturday mornings Tony has a rough idea of the text and format of the panels in the comic to me. That’s usually the last we talk about anything until Monday afternoon when — pop — in comes the latest comic strip for the weekly blog. I’ll go back to my original outline for the idea (that I emailed him the previous week) and then — after the kids go to bed on Monday nights — I refine (as much as possible) the bog entry for the week.
Publish. Rinse. And Repeat.
I usually am totally shocked at the results. In a good way. And, most of the times, the comic strips that go along with this bog entry write-up take things to an extreme (with a lot of references to pop-culture and humor in ways I could never think about).
Over the time of working on this site together, Tony and I have come to a balance and understanding that he provides the [awesome] comics and I will provide the text and writings behind them.
This is an example of pairing.
Is it the classic example? Nope.
Does it cost me more than doing it alone? No.
Is the product better?
Does it work? You tell me (please!!!!).
Another interested fact on the idea of pairing.
Most people think you need to collocate in the same room and computer in order to do this. I will let you in on another secret, and think about this for teams that are not collocated today — Tony and I live in different states (not of confusion, but locations) and we have yet to meet face-to-face. If I passed him on the street, I would not even be able to say “hi” to him.
We will meet someday, I am sure. However, as with many Software Development projects these days, Scrum teams are using offshore resources on a more regular basis (I will not go into this topic on this entry, really!). The point here is that, in reality, we are all going to have to work with people we may never meet face-to-face. And it somehow needs to work.
Does this increase the chances of failure?
Another factoid…. I had the idea for this site in early 2006. It took me almost eight months of speaking to my personal network of contacts — and then to networks of people and their networks — to “find” what both an artist and I considered a good fit.
Could I have launched the site earlier than September 11, 2006?
Would it have had the same tone and impact it is having today?
However, once we figured out that we could get started… we did.
And, weekly — come hell or high water — we deliver on a consistent basis. Sometimes the results vary widely.
As for Software Development projects using Scrum, realize that you are dealing with people — human beings (not Resources!) and you cannot do everything by yourself. And, with all the constraints that are out there for not getting things done or delivered…. remember that Scrum talks about the “Art of the Possible” and try to keep that in mind as you get mired down in your day-to-day work.
I hope the current blog entry was helpful to you. Share it with others, as I see happening quite a bit now (and thank you for that!). And hopefully you enjoyed this week’s guest artist!
May 7, 2007