Thursday, February 15, 2018

About Conference Moberators and Beneficial Mobs

Only two more months to go until I'm going to be in Boston for the Mob Programming Conference 2018. It'll be my first one and I'm already looking forward to it as it's all about learning from each other.
I'm honored to host two mob sessions myself there: "Learning to Learn in a Mob" and "Mobservations: The Power of Observation in a Mob". What's especially awesome about this is that this makes me one of their so-called "moberators"!
But the very best thing about this conference opportunity are the people, the community behind. A few weeks ago, one of the other moberators, Ethan Strominger, reached out to me. He wanted to find out which impact mob programming has had on our team, as well as what I see as top three to ten benefits of mob programming. This got me thinking. Today I'd like to share my answer with you.

To give you some context, my current product team tried the mob approach last year in April for the first time. I blogged about it and also about our further experiences with mobbing. Ever since my team tried it for the first time, we started to mob quite frequently. The number of our sessions even increased over the last months. We don’t mob on everything, but on selected topics or spontaneously on demand, but mostly on real stories. Interestingly, my team was quite hesitant to give pair programming a try before we found the mob approach; and now we pair quite a lot as well. We also still work solo on things, but collaboration dynamics definitely changed. I also made some experiences with mobbing at meetups or conferences, or when facilitating it for our company’s testing community, but the biggest part of my experience is actually coming from my own product team.

Now here’s what I see as biggest benefits of mobbing. The list is most probably not complete, but represents what came to my mind.
  • We found mobbing is perfect for learning (for instance when integrating new technologies into our product) and spreading knowledge. Examples:
    • Our development team consists of full-stack developers and me as a tester. We once also had a DevOps specialist helping us solving all infrastructure-related topics. This was quite convenient, but it created a knowledge silo. As he was working for three teams he quickly turned out to be a bottleneck. Furthermore, in the end he left the company. We did not want to repeat this mistake, so we used the mob format to learn everything from scratch and instantly spread the knowledge in the team.
    • As I am the tester on the team, the mob is a perfect place to share testing knowledge with my developers. This is especially useful when I am not around, as the team takes over for me during those times. But they also support when I'm available, so testing is no bottleneck anymore.
    • The mob makes implicit knowledge obvious and triggers us to share it, thus often increasing everybody’s efficiency in everyday work. Could be as easy as learning about IDE shortcuts, how to increase cursor speed, or how to quickly create test data.
  • The mob helps to solve tricky problems as we have all brains focused on them. I absolutely agree with the statement that you don’t get the most out of everybody, but their best. It’s about quality. Also, a mob can trigger way more ideas how to solve a problem or how to most conveniently or cleanly implement a solution.
  • The mob provides a perfect environment for seniors to do what is in my opinion their biggest task: to increase the seniority of everyone else. The seniors learn how to express their thoughts and intention as easily comprehensibly as possible, and the more junior ones can practice hands-on how to do things, by actually doing them. Invaluable.
  • Everybody is instantly informed about everything. Decisions are made together in time; there’s no need for further feedback loops, follow-up tasks, asynchronous reviews, etc. Therefore it’s also a great format for any other activities. We already used it for writing a job offer, reviewing incoming applications, or designing a presentation for business.
  • Last but not least: My team grew a lot closer together due to mobbing. We learned how to communicate within the team better, to have synchronized coffee breaks together, in general get to know each other better. The trust level in the team was already high before, but it had heavily increased and we all know we have each other’s back.
That said, I'm really looking forward to meeting Åsa, Ethan, all other moberators, as well as the conference attendees. I really want to learn about other people's experiences and discover what they see as biggest benefits of the mob approach.

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