Embrace Your Mistakes—Make Friends with Pairing and Feedback | TechWell

Embrace Your Mistakes—Make Friends with Pairing and Feedback

I hate making mistakes. Or, more precisely, I hate making mistakes that other people see.

In my previous life, I had an office—with a door. I could work at my own pace and only come out for meetings and bio-breaks. The little secret that no one talks about in that life is that I was free to make mistakes—and no one ever had to know about them.

The thing is that writing tests, writing requirements, or creating anything new is often, if not always, an iterative process. If it isn't, chances are you're doing it wrong. No one gets everything right the first time. That means early versions of what you're creating were wrong to some degree, and that is OK.

A great benefit of moving into an open workspace has been increased opportunities for pairing. On the flip side, when pairing, one's thought process—and, yes, one's mistakes—are more visible. With that visibility comes vulnerability. As humans, we hate feeling vulnerable. (For instance, no one types as well with someone watching as he does when unobserved.) For someone like me, this might just be the single most frightening aspect of pairing.

But relax! It's OK to make mistakes. It's safe to assume the other people on the team are also human and will make mistakes of their own.

Remember that one of the biggest reasons for pairing is fast feedback, and feedback is good, even when it’s telling you that you're wrong—in fact, especially when it's telling you that you're wrong.

Having a second set of eyes to let you know when you're getting off into the weeds is a real time—and sanity—saver. Think of it as sharing the burden of getting things right with other members of the team. Fear of being seen goofing up is only going to serve to hold you back. Besides, some pretty amazing things have come out of things not going as planned.

So if you've never tried it before, give paired programming/paired requirements writing/paired anything a try. Notice that the person with whom you're working also makes mistakes. But don't point and laugh. That's just rude.

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