Mob Progamming: You will be exposed
Perhaps the title of this post is a bit misleading. It should probaby be titled, “Mob Progamming: You will be exposed”. That’s exactly what happens to members on a Mob Programming team. The interesting part is that it isn’t all that bad and if you are working on a real team it is beneficial.
If you are part of a team that is practicing Mob Programming, every aspect of your interaction with the team will be exposed and on display. Everything from personal hygiene to technical expertise. When you get stuck on a problem and use Google to search, the team will see exactly how you think when coming up with search terms. There is no where to hide, but is there really any reason to hide?
Hunt and Peck
I have been a hunt and peck typist for most of my life, it is a terrible habit and I had become fairly proficient at it. Not as good as a touch typist, but I did OK. In previous work environments where most of my time working was spent solo and most group interaction was limited to meetings, typing profiency wasn’t a big deal. In a Mob Programming environment where typing proficiency impacts not just the typist, but every other person on the team, it becomes an issue. Typing delays that happened because I was looking at the keyboard and not the screen started to add up. Not so bad when that time adds up for one person, but when you multiply that by 4 for the number of people on our team, it is time to inspect and adapt.
Shortly after I joined our Mob Programming Team a developer on the team approached me and pointed out that if I practiced touch typing a couple of minutes each day, I could break the hunt and peck habit, improve my speed, and have better keyboard posture. Peer pressure, the great motivator! So I gave it a try and to no surpise to anyone anywhere, my typing has improved.
As a member of a Mob Programming Team, my poor typing skills were exposed. Together, we inspected and adapted. My teammates offered me help, because that’s how a team is supposed to work. Another great benefit of mobbing is that you have to be a team and not just call yourself a team, but that’s a blog for another day.
I don’t mind being exposed because every exposure is a learning opportunity and a chance to grow. That’s why it works for our team, because everyone has enough trust in one another to let their guard down. We all know that no matter what weakness we have it will be embraced as a learning opportunity and not a point for ridicule or embarassment.
Teaching and Learning
If we find a weakness across the team, we build a learning session around it and confront it head on. For those that have mastery it is an opportunity to teach, for those without the knowledge it is an opportunity to learn. Most importantly, we grow as a team, with some benefits for everyone.
Exposure = Insight
By being exposed, everyone on the team is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. If we need to spike on a topic in a hurry, it is easy to determine who the best navigator/driver would be. The non native speakers on our team lean on the native speakers for help with proofreading documents and emails. Those with strong DB skills know when they need to step up on DB related tasks. Since we are usually mobbing, this helps to normalize profiency across team members.
Team vs. Mob
Of course, any team can expose the weakness of individuals, but traditional teams do not have the same level of interaction as a Mob Programming team. A traditional team might note that one team member is a slow typist. If they only meet once a day for 30 minutes it is more likely to be ignored or not even noticed. It is only a problem for a short period during the day and tolerating the problem or mentally noting that the person is a poor typist is probably easier than having an uncomfortable conversation. On a Mob Programming team, that is sitting together in close proximity for 6-8 hours a day, a slow typing teammate is not easily ignored. We find these conversations are also not nearly as uncomfortable, because everyone on the team recognizes the situation as an opportunity for change that will benefit the entire group.
Fear, uncertainy and doubt can lead to skepticism of Mob Programming. Fear of weaknesses being exposed to the mob. The uncertainty, either perceived or real of how the team will react to your weakness. The doubt we all have in ourselves and in our abilities. The root of most fear is the unknown. If you don’t know what Mob Programming is or haven’t tried, it is natural to question it or be skeptical. But what will it hurt to try? At the worst you waste the entire day and get to know your team a little better, at best you get some work done and get to know your team a little better, and maybe even get to know yourself a little better.