The Mob Job

Speakers: Oz Chihwayi & Candice Mesk


Session: 90 Min. Workshop

Delivering working software is about thinking and solving problems. We cannot simply make our brains work faster but are there techniques that could amplify our problem solving abilities? Solving problems is best done by considering a number of different perspectives.

Oz and Janco will immerse attendees in a practical mobbing session, demonstrating the effectiveness of problem solving through different views. As a tester and developer on the same team, they will share their team’s journey into mobbing as a problem solving approach. Attendees will experience the power of collective thinking and how mob programming /testing can result in creative solutions.

We have worked together or over 3 years in a high performing cross functional team. During this time, we have been continuously seeking to improve the ways of delivering working software, but also solve the real problems. We have learnt that it is more important to deliver the right thing that works than delivering software quickly, if it does not work.

We would like to share our team’s journey and the learning that we have got in our journey since our team started mob programming and testing of our solutions.
In this workshop, we will define a problem statement that needs to be addressed. Attendees will have a time to work on their own for a very limited time to come up with a solution. We will retrospect, and discuss alternative ways of building a solution. Attendees will then break away into teams that collaborate highly, with each team member playing a pre-defined role that brings a different perspective to the problem and solution. Each team will effectively form a mob, with real time collaboration and focus on solving the problem at hand. We will retrospect and share the lessons learned, and any challenges faced during the mobbing experience.
We will conclude by sharing our own team’s real journey into mobbing, highlighting the benefits, the past and present pain points; and how we have responded to these to keep the team valuable.
In this exercise we hope that, with experiential learning the attendees will acquire new attitudes, skills and figure out new ways of thinking and approaches that can be applied in their current and future contexts. Or at the very least be challenged to approach their problems differently.

Some of the insights we would like to come out are:

The importance of different perspectives in problem solving.

Mobbing has changed the process of solving code from a fraught and mundane exercise into an open space for genuine social interaction that focuses on learning and solving problems. Work can actually be fun.

How mobbing has intensified our team’s relationship building and understanding of the business domain, the people in the business and have a deeper comprehension of their problems.

The innovation and creativity that mob programming has inspired in our team, by encouraging us to perform small experiments and take failure as learning, as a team.

Mobbing has helped us to remain conscious and focus on the most important work that needs to be done. Not only being innovative but keeping things simple and useful, with a shared understanding.

With mob programming and testing, we are constantly thinking about testing at every stage – asking ourselves, how does what we are doing help us achieve the end goal of solving a problem for our customer?

Ramping up time for new hires has drastically been reduced with mob programming. Mobbing provides an accessible way of skilling up and new and inexperienced members of the team. It has also helped to show and maintain the team’s expected coding standards; and provides an open space for debate and improvement of these. It provides an open mentoring and skills improvement session for everyone.

Learning and knowledge sharing has been made easier and more accessible.

Mobbing has improved our delivery process review to prevent defects and building the wrong thing.
Through mob programming, we have learned to optimise on flow utilisation rather than focusing on making sure everyone is busy all the time. Even with individuals taking breaks and popping in and out of the mob, the work still flowed regardless of who is present (as long as there is enough shared context). This continuity reduces the key person dependency and helps to ensure that work still flows.
The social nature of mobbing has made it a more natural space for us to get to know and understand our team mates better.

We have also observed a noticeable reduction in defects, rework or failure demand and debt.
Hard-to-measure benefits such as shared understanding and reduced debt.

Challenges of mobbing

A need for space holder and how we overcame it.

Not for everyone out of the box, there may be a learning curve before it starts to feel natural and beneficial.

Complex communication as we have more people collaborating in real time.

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