Agile Open BsAs 2009 – Sessions part 3

This is the last part:

Session 4: What should I do with my junior developers?

One of the principles of the agile methods is the self-organized teams, but this is not an easy question when you have junior people in your teams. How much seniority is required to have a self-organized team? How can a person be able to estimate a task that he never performed? How to prevent this inexperienced people to get stuck when working with new things?  These were some of the questions that were discussed. In the next few lines I will share the two main ideas I get clear from the session.

1. Don’t let them get stuck

When  juniors start a task they may get stucked and there are two bad situations when this occur:

  1. they start asking all the time, interrupting the work of the rest of the team or
  2. they try to solve the impediments by themselves and waste too much time

One useful technique to prevent this situations is to use pair programming, making pairs senior-junior but also junior-junior, this last combination gives me great results in my teams. And to complement this it could interesting to make frequent “pings”, I mean every three or four hours just see how they are doing with their tasks.

2. Allow them to choose their tasks

This could sound strange, how can they choose their task when maybe they don’t know how to perform them?. Well the key is how you create the sprint backlog. First of all try to split the work in small tasks, second when the tasks are asigned let the experienced developers to choose first. This way the experienced developers will choose the difficult tasks, and when the juniors have to choose the will have only simple tasks. Another benefit of this approach is that juniors will be able to estimate these simple tasks. Despite of this, it could happen that a junior choose a complex task that you know he don’t have the knowledge to perform it, in that situation make him some questions about how he think he will complete the task in order to make him realize that that task is not the best for him.

That’s all, more after the next Agile Open.

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