What if we rotate pairs day-after-day?

The vast majority of builders work solo. Duties are generally assigned to
single people in a apply that known as “solo coding”. Builders
that apply solo coding are sometimes remoted in silos that stop data
sharing throughout the workforce. These silos additionally make it tough for workforce members
to bond and create private relationships, particularly in a distant working
surroundings. Onboarding of latest workforce members is difficult and the
institution of high quality gates like code opinions end in a bottleneck for
supply effectivity. As well as, binding the work to particular person workforce
members additionally creates a danger for each time this particular person leaves the workforce (eg.
holidays or sick depart). Lastly, people ultimately turn into homeowners of
areas of the system and the particular person to go to for feature-specific

Pair programming is a viable different to solo coding.
On Pair Programming explores its advantages and challenges.
When growing in pairs, folks can work intently along with the purpose to
continually share data and knowledge. This results in higher refinement
of tales as a result of everybody could have the required context to contribute.
Additionally, there isn’t any want for particular code evaluation processes since all code is
being reviewed ​​on the fly. Pairing creates extra alternatives for folks to
know one another and develop private bonds thus growing workforce’s cohesion.
Pairing processes must be accompanied by a periodic pair rotation ceremony
in order that pair switching can occur. This permits folks to expertise working
with everybody within the workforce. After this ceremony builders ought to share the
present duties’ context and progress with the brand new pair in order that the supply
circulate can proceed.

The frequency of pair rotations can differ between groups. Although
frequent pair rotations are most popular with a view to maximize the advantages of
pairing, some groups have reported that rotating pairs regularly creates
friction. There’s a notion that rotating pairs day-after-day, or each
different day, is extra expensive and tougher than rotating as soon as per week. On
the opposite finish of the spectrum, there are additionally groups which rotate pairs as soon as
a month. This implies a person would take at the least 5 months to pair with
different 5 folks within the workforce at the least as soon as, assuming no repeated pairs throughout
this era. One other routine is when pairs rotate solely once they end a
job, which makes the frequency indeterminate. Additionally it is not sensible to
rotate pairs on job completion since it’s unlikely that different pairs
end on the similar time.

We began noticing that groups with rare pair rotations are inclined to
current related signs seen in groups that do solo coding. Lengthy-lived pairs
begin to turn into “companions in crime”. Context sharing will get tougher the longer it takes for
pair switching to occur: Builders have to share all of the context from the
earlier month with a brand new pair within the context of month-to-month rotations. We had
proof that our pair switching apply wasn’t yielding the specified
outcomes, so we determined to run an experiment with the purpose to enhance workforce
efficiency via pairing finest practices.

Our Experiment

We determined to problem groups that practiced rare pair rotations
to radically enhance this frequency as a part of an experiment. What if for
two weeks we rotated pairs day-after-day? What have been the difficulties discovered
throughout this time, and what can we do to handle them? Did we reap the
advantages of pairing throughout this time? Going ahead, does the workforce wish to
maintain rotating pairs day-after-day or return to the earlier frequency?

We developed an train designed to assist a workforce discover frequent pair
rotation and make important evaluation of its influence. The train begins
with a one hour, facilitated whiteboarding session, throughout which the workforce
members write up and focus on their ideas on the next three

  • Why is pairing precious?
  • What makes pairing tough?
  • What makes pairing simple?

These questions are introduced so as. The workforce has three minutes to
publish solutions for every query on the board and 7 minutes to debate
what they’ve shared.

Determine 2:
Mural board displaying workforce’s suggestions through the pair rotation experiment

For the next days of the train the workforce continues engaged on
their backlog whereas rotating pairs day-after-day. For any job in progress one
member of the pair stays with the duty as “anchor” whereas the opposite
rotates onto one other job. “Anchors” of a job rotate each
different day, guaranteeing that no workforce member will work on a single job for
greater than two days consecutively.

The workforce meets each morning for half-hour on a whiteboard session
with the next three questions:

  • What makes pairing tough?
  • What makes pairing simple?
  • What practices ought to we attempt immediately, to make our pairing simpler and extra

These questions are introduced so as, every with three minutes to publish
concepts on the board and 5 minutes to debate. When that is completed, the
workforce identifies anchors for every job in progress and facilitates the
project of latest pairs.

We facilitated this every day retrospective utilizing the identical board day-after-day,
with a singular coloration of sticky for every day. This allowed the workforce members
to see the factors raised in every space on every day, leading to a
visualization of the workforce’s studying and demanding considering all through the

On the final day of the train we facilitated the ultimate whiteboard
session, after which requested the workforce to determine on a pair rotation frequency to
proceed. We then inspired the workforce to proceed to revisit their pair
rotation frequency in future workforce retrospectives.

Outcomes of our Experiment

Throughout 2022 – 2023 we engaged three separate groups to do that
experiment for one week every. Every of those groups have been totally distributed,
working collectively on-line however by no means in particular person. Two of those
groups have been collocated between the US and Brazil.

Every workforce raised related considerations at first of the experiment. In
the primary part beneath we share a few of these considerations and describe how
the groups’ place advanced over the course of the experiment. The second
part presents some suggestions that shows the realized advantages of
pairing and frequent pair rotations.

All groups that participated in our experiment used programs like Jira or
Trello to doc and observe work objects, and all used the time period “card” to
describe a document in that system. The next suggestions and outcomes use
the phrase “card” on this sense.

What makes pairing exhausting and the way the perceptions modified

“Lack of empathy, alignment and communication makes pairing tough”

Frequent pair rotation is usually a highly effective instrument in constructing stronger
workforce dynamics. Initially, a scarcity of empathy and alignment could make
pairing difficult, particularly when workforce members are unfamiliar with
one another’s working patterns, tempo, and areas of experience. Nonetheless,
by switching pairs regularly, workforce members have the chance to
get to know each other higher, and shortly. This familiarity makes it
simpler to empathize and align with one another, finally fostering
stronger bonds throughout the workforce. Furthermore, the apply of frequent
pair rotation encourages a tradition of suggestions. We urged that workforce members
deliberately share suggestions throughout quick classes on the finish of their
pairing classes, contributing to steady enchancment and higher

“There are plenty of interruptions to pairing time”

Groups reported challenges in pairing attributable to frequent interruptions
brought on by a scarcity of lengthy intervals of uninterrupted working time. To
handle this challenge, the groups established core working hours within the
afternoon throughout which interruptions are minimized. Consequently,
conferences bought shifted to the morning or the tip of the day.
Moreover, pairs throughout the workforce utilized the Pomodoro Approach or
different specific timeboxing methodology to maximise their effectivity and
productiveness throughout their restricted working time.

“Switching pairs on a regular basis makes us slower”

There’s a notion that growing the frequency of rotations
leads to a decline in supply efficiency, as perceived by the
product workforce. They have a tendency to consider that extra rotation results in diminished
effectivity and slower output.

There additionally exists a developer notion that frequent rotations
introduce further overhead, consequently slowing down the workforce.
That is attributed to the necessity to constantly share the evolving
context of ongoing work, which is perceived as a time-consuming
course of.

Nonetheless, proponents of extra frequent rotations argue that sharing
context turns into extra environment friendly because the frequency will increase. That is
attributed to the truth that there may be sometimes much less contextual
data to speak if pair switching is completed regularly.
Furthermore, the effectivity of sharing context is additional enhanced when
each workforce member possesses a extra complete understanding of
ongoing duties. As well as, frequent pair switches creates an
alternative for workforce members to determine processes to facilitate
context sharing.

The apply of frequent rotation turns into extra manageable and
streamlined over time. Because the workforce turns into accustomed to this
method, the preliminary challenges related to frequent rotation
diminish, making the method progressively simpler and extra

The skilled advantages of frequent pair rotation

“Context sharing is simple and fast once you do it extra typically”

One concern that we heard from all three groups was that swapping
pair members on work in progress would result in an issue of sharing
context with the brand new pair member. Actually, for every workforce this appeared
to be the strongest motivation for long-lived pairs.

In every workforce’s board we discovered that this concern could be raised
within the first couple of days. Workforce members would recommend widespread methods
to make context sharing simpler, and by the tip of the experiment it
was now not a priority. A apply that emerged in every workforce was to
have pairs finish their day by including a be aware to the cardboard itself,
briefly capturing the work and selections accomplished that day. They
may also add or take away objects from a to-do checklist additionally maintained in
the cardboard. These easy practices helped the cardboard itself to hold the
context of the work in progress, fairly than having that context
reside with particular workforce members.

We discovered that every workforce found new practices associated to the
playing cards. In our every day discussions the workforce members would ask for extra
context to be held within the card, smaller playing cards, and ongoing feedback
within the playing cards.

“Data is flowing via the workforce”

This is likely one of the extra thrilling and insightful feedback we
heard. Groups found that, in apply, it didn’t take very lengthy
for an anchor to share context with a brand new pair at first of a
coding session. There was not plenty of new context to share. Additionally,
groups discovered it was simpler to know any card after engaged on
many different playing cards of the workforce’s backlog. Frequent pair rotations
speed up this expertise acquire as workforce members are capable of work on
a greater variety of duties each week.

“Data silos are inconceivable to keep up”

Every workforce included members of various expertise ranges and
areas of experience. The groups initially considered this variety as
a problem for frequent pair rotations. Previous to the experiment,
every workforce was organizing pairs and the playing cards assigned to pairs with
consideration of who’s a junior or senior workforce member, who’s a
front-end, back-end or devops specialist, who has prior expertise
working in a selected space of the codebase, and so forth. Sustaining
this advanced matrix made it tough to change pairs regularly,
and strengthened data silos within the workforce.

It was inconceivable to keep up these guidelines with the every day pair
rotations of the experiment. With pairs rotating day-after-day, workforce
members have been pressured to work in unfamiliar areas of the codebase. In
addition, there was far much less danger for any workforce member working in an
unfamiliar space since that member would solely keep on a card for a
day or two earlier than passing it to another person.

Our groups discovered that frequent pair rotations leveled the
expertise influence folks have on playing cards. Longer-term workforce members
might take away blockers from newer members and share data that
assist speed up their progress and studying curve of the codebase and
growth instruments.

Just a few months after the experiment, one workforce gave us some
attention-grabbing suggestions: They discovered that when an issue got here up in
manufacturing, they did not have to rely on only one particular person to look
into and repair it. The workforce might assign anybody to troubleshoot the
challenge. As well as, one other suggestions talked about an incoming pair
rotation introduced new context that modified implementation course
and helped resolve an issue within the early levels of the function’s
growth, thus saving the workforce numerous time and rework. These
spotlight the advantages of getting data unfold among the many

“The work is shifting among the many workforce members”

Workforce members discovered that everybody developed context associated to all
the playing cards in progress, even earlier than engaged on every card. This
elevated the effectiveness of the every day standup classes: Workforce
members would share insights, establish dangers prematurely and assist
one another in eradicating blockers. That is solely attainable when all
builders have sufficient context and possession of all playing cards in play.
No single particular person owns any piece of labor, and everybody within the
workforce is chargeable for the progress of the duties as an entire.


Although the experiment concerned every day pair rotations, the three
collaborating groups didn’t go for persevering with at this frequency within the
finish. One workforce settled on 3 day rotations whereas the opposite two groups settled
on 2 day rotations. We seen that frequent rotations revealed
bottlenecks and friction factors within the growth means of the groups.
Choosing rotating each 3 days as an alternative of on a regular basis pertains to working
round these blockers.

It is not uncommon that on any day the workforce members have only some hours,
typically fragmented all through the day, to pair. Workforce members felt that they
wanted greater than in the future to attain a significant pairing expertise. In
flip, this may additionally point out excessive fragmentation of growth time
all through the times. This was one of many causes groups opted for much less
frequency than practiced within the experiment.

Most of the perceived challenges through the experiment usually are not
absolutes, however fairly lower when addressed head-on (and conversely
enhance if prevented). The experiment offered a every day alternative for
members to replicate on pairing challenges and focus on options to
clear up them as a workforce. The effort and time employed within the experiment
ceremonies had a excessive return of funding.

Basically, operating the experiment dramatically improved the frequency
of pair rotations in these groups. One of many groups moved from rotating
as soon as a month to rotating each 3 days. This frequency enhance was a
results of the groups acknowledging the advantages of short-lived pairs such
as higher data sharing and workforce constructing. Through the experiments,
workforce members additionally reported collaborating within the experiment made them study
extra about pairing finest practices. As well as, operating pairing
retrospectives and suggestions trade classes promoted the suggestions
tradition within the groups.

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