Archive for April, 2010

So what is PairCoaching all about? Is a question I get a lot.
A few years back, when my father and I did a retrospective on a leadership game we had done earlier that week, we noticed that some of the leaders we ask to lead in a certain way, had trouble doing it.
So we talked about how we could support them more.
(In one part of the game, the leader had to be command-and-control, in another part we needed a proces leader)
While talking about that, my father suggested to use a pair of leaders.
It seems very logical to do so, as we did our session also with two people.
(And I know he does all of his workshops with someone else.)
Somewhere in the conversation he dropped the term PairCoaching.
He wrote a nice article about it, that we distribute to the players of the game.
Since that moment I have been talking more and more about PairCoaching.
I think that the quality goes dramatically up when you have two people doing a job. For important jobs I think it is good to have a pair doing the work.
Pilots are always with two in a cockpit. Is it overhead? Sure it could be, I think all the passengers of the flight 61 (Brussels Newark of 19 june 2009), are really happy there was a co-pilot, when the main pilot had a heart attack.
Leading a family of 17 children
In corporate life the default leadership style is one leader,  that leads a team somewhere between 5 to 500 people.
In personal life the default leadership style is two leaders, that lead  a family of 1 till 17 children.
Oh yes you can lead a family on your own. I have friends who are single parent, they do a great job, and they’ll tell you it’s tough alone.
I propose more people should try leading a team with 2 people.
In some sense people are already doing that in the agile world:
A scrum master and a PO have some kind of leadership role. Yes both roles are different, just like a mother role and a father role are different.
And sometimes a PO does more SM tasks, and a SM jumps in and helps on the PO taks. Like father and mothers switch roles also from time to time.
In a good running family, the mother and father consult each other on important decisions.

Another example I see in corporate life is at the top of companies:
you have a CEO and a president of the board.
Both roles are different, they share the responsibility for the company.

Update: A few weeks ago there was a session at an Agile Coach Camp about PairCoaching. Read the transcription here.

Lately I’m talking a lot about refactoring.

When I do, I use a lot a metaphor I have learned from Vera Peeters and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe.

Refactoring is like cleaning a kitchen.

If you observe the kitchen of a restaurant, you will see that they are cleaning the kitchen all the time.

So cooking and cleaning at the same time. (In other words I see refactoring as part of doing development)

Nobody would accept a cook to enter the restaurant and say: today the steak is 20 euro’s more expensive as we have to clean the kitchen first.
(And I presume that is when most people talk about refactoring and want a lot of money/time for it. They talk about doing a big refactoring that is more a rebuilding the kitchen instead of cleaning.)

Neither would a cook accept that I go into his kitchen and say: I want my steak half the price, can’t you not clean the kitchen today?

In the software world we let people tell us, do it quick and dirty, you can clean up after, when we have the time.

They presume it goes faster to build dirty code. Does it go quicker to cook in a dirty restaurant?

The big question is of course what to do when the kitchen is in a big mess?
(or what do you do when the code is in a mess)

There I say – use the boyscout rule: leave the place nicer than what you found.
In other words, do a little bit of refactoring to clean the code up every time you add something.
As we don’t want things to break, for me this would be start by adding unit tests.

To do this, I don’t think a team needs the approval of a manager.

A good book that helps people to learn about these first steps is Working effectively with legacy code.  I recently started yet another book Reading club at a client with this book.
I’ll write more about this in a future post.

Update: Another good book is Refactoring to patterns

Second Update: Joshua created a google group around metaphors, I hope you join the discussions around metaphors.

Third Update: Joshua is also the inventor of the Limited Red Society