Stephen Balkum

Agile Enthusiast, Leader, and Developer

Make them equally awesome

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I’m all about the team.  In all my experience I enjoyed my work most when it was part of a team.  So, when I am coaching a group of developers, I preach a team culture frequently.

One important aspect of a team is a level of redundancy.  If any one member is out, there are others capable of pulling up the slack.  A historical problem with most software development teams is silos of knowledge, individual developers each hold unique engineering information.  This causes all kinds of problems when a key developer is out sick, on vacation, or worse, leaves the team.

Beyond just talking about culture, there are several more mechanical methods for tackling this issue.  Pair programming is popular and works very well.  I encourage it.  Pairing is useful for the tough tasks where two brains are warranted.  It is also great when one brain is experienced in the area and the other is not.

The latest tactic I am enjoying is desk shuffling.  My team basically sits in a big ‘U’ shape with chairs on the inside.  It is very easy to lean over to your neighbor or “row” your chair over to the opposite side.  Every quarter, I shuffle the seating arrangment.  Every developer will move to a new location with new neighbors.  This fosters different pairs and team building as those spontaneous conversations will now involve someone new.

As the leader, the new seating arrangement is not random.  Each quarter I consider pairs that would be beneficial for culture or knowledge transfer.  New guy next to company veteran.  Younger developer next to seasoned engineer.  Subject matter expert between members that want to be.

In the end it is all about making everyone on the team equally awesome, constantly striving to improve themselves and the team.  Little actions like this keep everyone fresh and sharply focused.

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