Industrial XP -> Continuous Learning

Continuous Learning

Continuously improve your skills and become
ever more valuable to your project community

Story Test-Driven Development will help you create simple designs that meet your customer's requirements. However, this is contingent on the fact that programmers know the simplest thing that can possibly work. Teams are usually staffed with people of differing knowledge levels. Pairing helps diffuse their knowledge across the team. At this point, the implication is clear: individuals must continuously acquire knowledge to maximize the productivity and effectiveness of their teams. All knowledge cannot be acquired from Pairing. In fact, if pairing sessions continuously transform into training sessions,  it is a sign that some targeted learning is in order.

Your ability to contribute to your project community, as well as your future employability, depend on keeping up with the ever-increasing knowledge base and ever-expanding skill sets in software development. A wise project manager or XP coach will ensure that developers and others involved in the project have the time they need to learn about the latest developments in the field. 

Resume-Driven Development

The risk of not allocating personal learning time can be understood with the aid of Resume-Driven Development. When programmers are not allowed to grow, they will find some excuse to use the latest library they want to mention in their resume, regardless of its validity. That is
downright dangerous for the project. This risk can be mitigated by providing time to the team for personal learning and growth, a few hours each week or more.


On a large team we were coaching sometime back, we noticed that the programmers had little knowledge of refactoring or design patterns. We told the VP of the organization that we had to allocate a few hours each week for personal learning. Initially, there was resistance to doing this during work hours. So, we decided to experiment with lunch-n-learns. The team bought a projector, and we'd huddle around it and refactor badly written code, or do Test-Driven Development together while munching a sandwich. We also started a design patterns study group, tackling each pattern in the GoF book, discussing, debating..

Soon, the team realized that they had to learn continuously on all fronts, not just technology. They got subject-matter experts to hold sessions
explaining the business domain. It was pretty apparent by this time how valuable these learning sessions were. Also, people had gotten tired of the awful free lunches that were being provided. So, as a team they decided to continue only the learning part and not the lunches.

Their motivation level was studied at the end of the project (which they finished significantly above target). A confidential test was administered, and they scored 85 (75 is the score for world-class organizations). We believe that both Continuous Learning and Pairing contributed significantly toward this score.

Further Reading

Continuous Learning by Joshua Kerievsky
Pools of Insight: A Pattern Language for Study Groups by Joshua Kerievsky

Industrial XP logo
Values & Practices
· Continuous Risk Management
· Project Chartering
· Project Community
· Test-Driven Management
· Sustainable Pace
· Planning Game
· Storytelling
· Storytesting
· Frequent Releases
· Small Teams
· Sitting Together
· Continuous Learning
· Iterative Usability
· Evolutionary Design
· Story Test-Driven Development
· Refactoring
· Domain-Driven Design
· Pairing
· Continuous Integration
· Collective Ownership
· Coding Standard
· Retrospectives

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