The essence of pairing can be found in Ecclesiastes 4:9 -12 NIV: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” In other words, we use pairing to describe a relationship of two. And, in this case, we are not referring to socks or lovers, but work relationships.
Agile Alliance describes Pair Programming as: “an important technique for developing higher-quality code faster, while also reducing risk and spreading knowledge in an organization. With pair programming, two software developers work on one computer, collaborating on the same design, algorithm, code, or test. Since the popularization of the practice almost 20 years ago, some organizations have adopted the practice wholeheartedly (“extreme pairing”), others use the practice in certain situations (“on-demand pairing”), and many others still fear the practice will double their development costs.”
I joined the Silicon Valley Project Management (SVPM) program to continue growth through immersion in the Agile methodology. I paired with a team member assigned to complete a Sprint 11 backlog item (SBI). When I volunteered for the assignment, I used the phrase “shadow” to describe our relationship. A team member quickly corrected me. My first SBI assignment, “Create a Blog Post on the Pair (
Since programming was removed from the SBI title, I won’t rely on my first pairing experience, which was programming with the US Army, and later with a major airline. Pairing, which we called shadowing, was used extensively in both positions. In my most recent role as Senior Business Manager with a major health care company, our reporting and data analytics teams used pairing to gain benefits often only associated with programming.
Pairing describes the relationship where two people work together to complete an assignment. The relationships are between two experienced people (leader/leader), one experienced and an inexperienced person (leader/learner), or two inexperienced people (learner/learner).
Pairing techniques vary. The leader may be in control throughout the effort, or the learner may be in control with the leader’s coaching. Or, the leader may be in control while describing what they are doing. We chose yet another technique where the pair move fluidly between leader and learner depending upon the knowledge, skill, experience, and confidence with the task.
We launched the engagement with my teammate leading because they are familiar with the SBI. They also clarified the user story details and the definition of done. We were both LinkedIn learners when understanding the specific details of the LinkedIn changes. And I took the lead role in confirming a LinkedIn constraint that determined the final design.
Value and Benefits
The Benefits the SVPM program can realize using pairing techniques include:
- Accelerated onboarding – paired virtual sharing while navigating Google Drive, Google Docs, Slack, and Trello tools, promoted quick learning.
- Reduced learning curve – paired review for scrum ceremonies enhanced learner understanding and built confidence.
- Continuous design enhancements – paired discussions minimized the number of sessions required to agree on and develop the design.
- Knowledge transfer – leader and learner gained knowledge, each one can address potential design or implementation issues.
- Focused teams – paired teams focus on the assignment when engaged, in spite of other commitments.
- High-performing teams – pairing is the ultimate collaboration tool to expedite forming new bonds.
These benefits directly translate to customer satisfaction and value represented in the quality of the SVPM content