There are times when working with a single other person – pair management – is better than working alone or with a team.
Some professions such as police have a long tradition of working in pairs. Recently software programmers have started to practice pair programming where two people sit together and alternate roles of writing and reviewing software code. The resulting quality improvements can make this process more productive overall.
Pair management has some of the benefits of teams. A pair will generate more ideas than one person working alone. A pair generates a greater diversity of ideas, increasing the chances of having better ideas. A pair can work in parallel, going faster by simultaneously working on two related tasks. A pair can improve quality by working together on the same task. A pair of people can morally support each other, and people feel more satisfaction and learn more when working in pairs than alone.
A pair can work more quickly than a team because communication and coordination between two people is easier than among a team.
Do it now
Begin with a defined project or task that can benefit from more than one person but doesn’t require a team to complete. Collaborate with someone who has complimentary skills and select an interaction style from the list below.
Work with a partner who has complimentary skills, such as:
- Different skills with the same perspective, such as a more creative person to compliment a more analytical person
- Similar skills with a different perspective, such as knowledge from inside the organization to compliment knowledge from outside the organization
- Broader or deeper skills, such a range of relevant experience to compliment deep expertise in a particular area
When working with a partner, choose an interaction style suited to the activity at hand, for example:
- In continuous review one person does the work and the partner continuously reviews the quality of the work. The pair periodically switches roles.
- In problem solving both partners work together to solve a problem through tasks like generating ideas and building an analytical model.
- In complimentary tasks each partner does a different task that benefits from real-time communication with the other partner. For example, if you’re testing a prototype one person can run the test and the other person records the results.
The main pitfall to avoid when working in a pair is groupthink. Partners need to feel comfortable showing healthy skepticism toward each other’s ideas. Careful matching of personalities is important in forming effective pairs. For example, it can be difficult for someone to provide honest feedback to another person higher up in the organizational hierarchy.