Pairing Improves Writing

I’m writing a geographically distributed agile team book with Mark Kilby. We have a 30-minute timebox each morning to write. (We take time off for holidays, vacations, travel, etc.)

Because we’re writing together, we first had to understand what we wanted to write in this book. We created a frame and a story map for the book—who we are writing for, and what we want them to learn.

We also had to understand our toolset. I’ve been using TextMate for years to write in Markdown. I use OmniGraffle to create the images you see in my books. Well, I had to update my versions of the tools because Mark didn’t have the old versions. (Yes, there’s a post in the future about not changing the compiler or other tool in the middle of a project.)

We changed our toolset to use google docs right now, so we can finish the discussion and the writing-down parts. At some point, we’ll export to markdown and we’ll have new challenges for editing.

I had some images I’ve been using forever about how to think about geographically distributed teams.

This image to the left is the original from years ago.

I’d updated it with more circles and then Mark had questions.

© Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby

You can see this image is similar but not the same as the original image.

We tried to clarify the team’s and team member’s physical location vs their team space, which might be virtual.

I’m not sure if we got it right yet, and this is still a draft image with a note in the upper right, but it’s close.

We just spent the last three meetings hashing out the image and the words to go along with the image.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this image and our discussions! One of the big problems we see is what I’ve been calling the “geo-fence” problem for distributed teams. When team members are more than 60 m apart (about a two-minute walk), the team members are dispersed. However, especially if the team members are all in one zip code, the managers might not realize the team is dispersed. That’s a problem.

The team members have a virtual fence, that geo-fence, around them. Instead of being in the upper right quadrant, they are in the lower right quadrant.

We’re writing more slowly than I do alone. That’s okay because our discussions clarify our thinking, our images, and our writing. Pairing is helping us write a better book. Pairing is improving our writing.

If you have challenges with your geographically distributed agile team, do email me or comment. We will make sure to address your concern.

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