Happiness – A Guest Article by Llewellyn Falco

Llewellyn Falco has visited our Mob Programming team many times.  I asked Llewellyn if he could write a guest article for us about his experience with Mob Programming, and here it is.  Thanks Llewellyn!

I have had a different experience.

I sat with a team that was happy, joyful even. They were hopeful, energetic and engaged. There was a high level of trust and respect for everyone in the team. People felt safe to voice ideas and suggestions, and when weakness were shown, they were acknowledged without ridicule. The team even set aside time each day to help other members of the team become stronger in the areas they needed improvement in.

Trust in the workplace

An example of this came about a month after a new teammate joined the mob. One day the new guy came out and said that he wasn’t very good at typing and wanted to learn to touch type. Think about that; he had been programming his whole career, but finally got to a place where he felt comfortable enough to admit a weakness, not only to himself but to his whole team. And the team rallied around getting typing tutor programs for him to practice with each day, and creating a box to put over his hands to prevent ‘cheating’ by looking at his hands when he took the keyboard.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this team was extremely high preforming. They actually felt more like a team you would see on TV than in the real world, and there is lot’s of evidence that high morale leads to high productivity. As Michael Johnson said on the podcast Freakonomics [http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/02/23/the-dilbert-index-a-new-marketplace-podcast/]:

“[workplace morale] may be the only remaining competitive advantage that organization’s have. Organization’s that do this well tend to do well financially as well”

But what can you really do to create long-term happiness at work?

There are a lot of short-term solutions to this problem. Off site meetings, parties, cake. All of these bring up the temporary happiness of the people who work at you company, but is that the same thing as being happy at work?

All too often it seems companies fall into a death spiral of misery.

“The beatings will continue until morale improves”

I believe that long term happiness comes from a combination of fulfilling your potential and experiencing a series of successes. These are both things this team had in spades. They had been working together for a while before I sat with them, and they had been succeeding. Moreover, they had been obviously growing in skill and talent over the year I have known them.

A series of small successes

If you ask a long distance runner how they run, they will tell you that you don’t run 10 miles, you run to the next sign. Each next sign post gives you a win and these little wins become more important than the bigger success of finishing 10 miles.

One of the things the mob has enabled is the ability to be “done done” with a small feature. That means they are deploying on the order of once a day. This means at the end of the week, they have solved 5 problems for the company. Not just hypothetically, these problems are solved now, people and benefiting from the work this team did today. That feels good. That feels damn good.

It was clear that Mobbing had been the event that facilitated the transformation for this team. One thing I learned from the book “Switch” was that while most people tried to implement change by looking at what was wrong and trying to fix it, a much more successful strategy was to look at the bright spots of that were working and try to imitate them.

To this end, I am using Mobbing more and more often with my teams. I am enjoying the improvements in productive that I have seen. But really, I just want to be that happy again at work.

Llewellyn Falco

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