What is it Like to Join a Mob?

Added to Process

Our latest experience report is by Robert “Jason” Kerney from Hunter Industries. Jason joined the mob programming team at Hunter over a year ago. I met Jason last year at Agile2014. He was having lunch with his manager, Woody Zuill, who presented an Agile2014 Experience Report explaining how mob programming started and how it works. All experience reports presented at the Agile conference are backed up by written reports available on the Agile Alliance website.

The idea for this experience report started when I asked Jason, “What was it like joining the mob?” After a little thought, he started to share some interesting stories. I signed Jason up to write about his experiences because I wanted to learn more. And the process of writing about experiences always draws out even more insights. Joining the mob has been a transformative experience for Jason.

Mob programmingJason observes that there’s a significantly different feel to being on a mob team than on an XP development team. With a mob, all developers work together day in and day out. Together. How does that work in practice? Well, one person is the driver at the keyboard; the rest are playing the role of Navigator, giving the driver advice. It is the Navigators' responsibility to discuss and formulate what should be coded, and the responsibility of the Driver is to translate the ideas and guidance of the Navigators into code.

The team rotates Drivers every 15 minutes (or so). At Hunter, they warm up in the morning with an hour of group learning, not working on production code per se. Then they spend the next 6+ hours, intensely working on production code. All together. Every day.

Jason is quick to state that he is “really careful about ‘selling’ Mob Programming. We are not salesmen because we do not know if mob programming would be good in any given situation.” Mob programming involves respect and teamwork. But again, it requires and demands a lot of trust in yourself and between you and your teammates. Jason says, “You have to trust that they will see and recognize not only your growth but also the other areas where you shine. You have to have trust….that you will be treated with kindness, consideration, and respect… that everyone is acting toward the benefit of the group, not just themselves.”

Mob programming may not work in all contexts, but it can be highly productive and energizing. As long as there’s trust.

If you’d like to share with others what you’ve learned on your agile journey, I encourage you to consider writing an experience report. The Agile Experiences Program is interested in hearing your ideas and helping you tell your story. You can meet with me at the Agile2015 conference. Or submit a proposal at any time. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, the program director, Rebecca Wirfs-Brock at experiences at agilealliance dot org.


This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.