Real World Pairing

You've tried pair programming before a time or two (or maybe you've talked with someone who has), and it seems alright, but it's not as magical and life-changing as you've heard it made out to be. Why wasn't it as easy or as effective as it feels like it should be? What's missing??

Pairing is like any other activity: a little skill will make the experience much more enjoyable and effective. If you've never swum before, swimming in the ocean on a beautiful beach might not be as enjoyable as everyone makes it out to be. If you've never seen snow before, a ski vacation might be more terrifying than exhilarating. And if you've never paired before, pairing might not come out naturally -- especially if your pair partner also isn't skilled in pairing, or isn't skilled in teaching pairing.

Just like there are many skills that make someone a skilled swimmer, there are a number of skills that together make someone skilled at pairing. This full-day workshop focuses on three of these skills:

  • "goal sharing"
  • "flagging"
  • "yes, and"

When applied to your future pairing sessions, these skills together will create a more collaborative and productive experience.

This workshop runs light on lecture. Attendees will spend significant time in demos, discussion, and short (10-30 minute) hands-on exercises to learn about and practice skills.

Goal Sharing

Many pairing failures come from misalignment in goals. One person wants to go as quickly as possible; the other wants to go as thoroughly as possible. Or one person is delighted by the unknown; the other finds them to be draining. We'll practice pair goal sharing and setting, and learn how this one small act can set a pair up for success or doom them to a bad pairing session.


You may have learned and practiced feedback skills in the past, especially around giving feedback more effectively. But did you know there is also a skill in knowing when to give feedback, when to ask for feedback, and when to ask if your pair needs feedback? Sometimes people don't recognize until after the fact that they need to give or ask for feedback. How do you learn to identify when things aren't going well before they start to feel actively bad? How do you speak up about it? How might you get better at making space for your pair to speak up?

Yes, And

When we pair, sometimes our pair partner may have ideas that they explain poorly, or that we think aren't very good. This can happen in any pairing situation, but happens more frequently when pairing across a skills gap. When this happens, it's easy to discount the less-experienced person's ideas -- not a very collaborative or affirmative experience. How do we identify ideas when the words are different? How do we run with ideas that aren't yours, or sound like a bad idea? How do you create a vision with your pair partner, together?

Attendees will practice these skills separately, before pulling it all together into real live pairing sessions. To support attendees in their co-learning, pairing sessions will be coached. Attendees will practice pair programming, with a third attendee coaching the pair in the skills that were covered earlier in the day.

    Expectations for attendees:
  • No prior knowledge or experience with pairing required - only an open mind and interest in pairing
  • Attendees may run exercises either with or without a laptop. Please bring extra external keyboards/mice/monitors if using a laptop.

What are you waiting for? Get in touch (form below) and let's talk about what you're looking for in leveling up your team's pairing skills!