Developers and reversing team entropy

Metro dev team has had a *lot* of retrospectives over the years. One of the constantly recurring themes is pairing. (The other is testing but that’s a topic for another post).

Whenever developers work together on the same task good things happens – it gets done way faster with way less pain and with much higher quality. And we get to share our skills around which makes pairing easier… a virtuous circle. Hoorah!

Somehow though, although we know how powerful it is, pairing has never become a habit.

Our default is still to try and solve problems individually. Our default is still to pick up a new task rather than helping out somebody else finish theirs.

Why is this?

It’s because… developers. We like code. We like people too, but when faced with a problem our default is to look to the code for the answers, rather than other people. (Obviously, we need to look at the code too but two heads looking at it are better than one).

Developers, by necessity, are detail people. We’re easily snared by doing the thing right, rather than doing the right (most important) thing.

I think of this as team entropy. Invisible forces drive the team’s workload to fragment until everyone is working on a different task.

How do we change this?

My current side-project is a tool that focuses developers on the most important thing. We already have Trello for prioritizing tasks but the real action happens in Slack…

Slack says that there have been 490 metrouk messages in the last 24 hours. Every message is a potential distraction. After a distraction it can take 23 minutes to recover one’s flow.

Basically, it’s easy to spend 80% of the day distracted rather than focused.

If only there was a way to filter out messages less important than what you’re working on right now.

If only there was a way to reverse team entropy… to only be distracted by something more important.

Watch this space.

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