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Last week Sam and I visited Durban to do some Scrum training. We were invited to join Chillisoft on Monday afternoon for their ‘Intention Practice’. Always keen to see how others improve themselves, we joined them eagerly.

Every Monday from 3pm to 6pm, Chillisoft have Intentional Practice. They sometimes invite customers or other developers to join them, and try to do something different each time. The session we joined was focused on the string kata and pairing practice. Here is how it was structured.

Everyone met at 3pm and Chris and Peter described the plan for the afternoon. The structure was as follows:

Round 1: Find a partner and do the string kata as a pair, in any language you like. Try to get as far as you can in 30 minutes. The focus for round 1 was on pairing, most people did ping pong pairing for this round.

After 30 minutes we got back together and discussed what people had learned.

Round 2: Find a new partner. Delete whatever you did before and start the string kata over again. The challenge for round 2 was to not use a mouse, so people would learn to use shortcut keys.

After 30 minutes we got back together and discussed what people had learned.

Round 3: Find a new partner. Delete whatever you did before and start the string kata over again. The challenge for round 3 was that every 10 minutes, we would switch workstations and pick up where the previous pair had left off. Round 3 was 40 minutes so we switched 4 times. This was even more fun since one pair was doing the kata in Javascript and everyone else was using C#.

After the third round, we did a final debrief. Sam and I played the Ball points games with the whole team and then we all had dinner together.

Here is what I learned.

Doing a kata over and over again with different people led to a good discussion on emergent design. i.e. what is the best point to refactor into 2 different classes for parsing and adding.

This is a great way to experience TDD done right, and makes it much more likely that people will do it in their day jobs.

Many companies I know have time each week for growth and learning, but this is seldom well structured. Having a format like this meant people used the time really well. I’d highly recommend bringing some structure into sessions like this if you do them today.

I was once again reminded of the freedom TDD brings to just do what you need right now and worry about complexity later. It really helps make complex problems easier to tackle, one bite at a time.

Pairing is an excellent technique to bring people up to speed FAST. I hadn’t coded in 12 years, and I was able to contribute within 10 minutes.

Sessions like this are a great way to expose people to how you work. Chillisoft invited someone who they were thinking of hiring to attend. A great way for both parties to get a feel for each other in an environment that’s more relaxed than an interview.

Thanks Chillisoft for inviting us. It was loads of fun and learning for us. Plus we love the t-shirts ­čÖé

 

 

 

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