Three Ingredients to make Mobbing a Joy
I always thought mobbing was only for developers. I also thought mobbing was all or nothing. So, when you mob as a team you mob on all the work for the team. My recent experience with a coach on my team helped me see things differently.
Aside from establishing a process to do the work, have you ever got curious about what conditions need to exist for you to collaborate well with your team? It does not matter if you swarm, mob, or pair. The same conditions apply.
All these 3 styles of collaborative work intend for a team or pair to work on one story/unit of work at one time so the work in progress (WIP) is 1. Swarming is when a team collaborates on the 1 item, Mobbing is when a team collaborates on 1 item with one keyboard and Pairing is when two people collaborate on 1 item with one keyboard.
In my experience there are three ingredients that need to exist in your environment to make this a joy.
How we Discovered we needed to Mob
Before the holidays crept up on us, I had an opportunity to try mobbing with my team of agile coaches. As coaches we consider collaborative work a joy. We look forward to co-creating and welcome feedback for the work we do.
As the year was wrapping up, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the year that passed and set a vision for the upcoming year. Last year, I had to do this alone being a solo coach in the organization. This year I had an opportunity to collaborate on it with a coach who I recently hired onto my team (Marie).
How were we going to put our thoughts together? Did we both need to come fully prepared for our mobbing sessions? Or could we start a discussion and build upon each other’s ideas?
We had to talk through it & find a way that worked for us.
How we went about Mobbing
As much as we enjoy collaboration, we both have our niches and like to geek out on different things and our perspectives vary slightly. So, how we were going to do this?
Discover our Approach
- Identify what to mob on: We had to first figure out what to mob on. We had a collection of 10 items that we were looking to complete in the next 3–4 days. We conducted a backlog refinement session and talked through our definition of done for each item. Then, we discussed if each item would benefit from collaborative work. In the process we identified the work we wanted to mob on.
- Structure our day: Once we knew what we wanted to mob on & work on individually we had the beginning of a plan. We then talked about how we would structure our day — with a combination of individual work, time for feedback from each other & collaborative work in the form of mobbing.
- Find balance: We had found a way to balance our desires with individual and collaborative work. This was it!
We wondered if our teams had experienced this balance while discovering how they would mob on work.
Our mission was to put together content for a themed lean coffee coming up in a few weeks. We had a culture of conducting lean coffees every couple of weeks in our organization.
This was structured as a 60 min meeting broken out as -
- Set the stage - 5 mins
- Introduce the topic -15–20 mins
- Breakout discussions - 25–30 mins
- Wrap up/synthesize thoughts - 10 mins
Here is how we Mobbed:
- We got on a zoom call and checked in with each other to make sure we were present and ready for this mobbing session.
- I started with sharing my screen and created a new lean coffee space in MIRO from an existing template. I was the driver.
- My team member (Marie) in the meantime was ready with a jira ticket where we had framed our initial thoughts. She was the navigator and was going to guide me on how to build out the board.
- We first built the outline & created different frames in MIRO to support it.
- We mobbed on the content for each frame and added more details one frame at a time.
- We then divided up the frames between us & worked individually on the content while staying on the same zoom call, asking questions from each other, and continuing with our work. We each worked for about 10–15 mins and then swapped the frames we worked on so we could review each other’s work.
- During this time, we switched being driver & navigator every 10–15 mins or as needed.
- Within 45 mins, we had completed fleshing out all the details and then added the finishing touches to the board
We had successfully mobbed on building this lean coffee session all under an hour. Since it was only the two of us working, our collaborative style of working could also be pairing. We did all of it together — built the outline, built the starting content, fleshed out additional details, reviewed each other’s work, added the finishing touches & it was done!
What we Learned
We reflected on this experience and how joyful & productive it was. We also acknowledged that this activity would have taken longer if we tackled it individually.
Was mobbing for everyone? What conditions existed in our environment to make this a success? Why did it feel easy for us? I was curious, so we reflected on this together.
While our process of how we started and decided to mob was logical — 1) identify what to mob on 2) create a structure and 3) find balance, not sure what else was at play. There were underlying conditions that existed in our relationship that helped make this easy.
Three ingredients that made this a Joy:
- High level of safety: What we discovered is we had a high level of safety in our relationship. Any collaborative work always comes down to respect and a basic level of trust between team members. Everyone needs to feel comfortable to share ideas, feel valued and feel safe to contribute.
- We believed in collaborative work: We believed collaborative work led to better results than individual work. Good collaboration creates a rich pool of ideas and perspectives to build on, which creates better results. However, collaboration is only fun when everyone feels comfortable to share ideas and build upon each other’s ideas. For this to happen, safety needs to exist.
- We respected what each other brought: We believed in the co-active coaching principle of both of us being naturally, resourceful, and whole. The assumption was we both had good ideas and respected what we each brought to the table. This made us let go and allow the power of the collective to unfold.
Mobbing with Marie was possible because we had a high level of safety built in our relationship, we believed in collaborative work, and we respected what we each brought to the table. These were the three ingredients that made this a joyful experience for us regardless of our process / structure that we created to mob. Along the way we also built a shared understanding of how we liked to work together and strengthened our foundation.
So, we concluded that mobbing was not for everyone.
Do you have a desire to try mobbing? Reflect on what stops you.
If you believe mobbing or any form of collaborative work (swarming, mobbing, pairing) enhances the quality & creativity of any unit of work, what stops you from trying? What are your fears?
Is it the fear of losing the chance to do individual work?
- This is oftentimes why teams are resistant to mob, swarm, or pair. After all we love the zone we get into when we are working on something alone.
- But then we lose the chance to collaborate & learn from each other.
- It is important to acknowledge our needs & balance them.
Or is it that you feel like your ideas are not valued so you don’t look forward to collaborative work?
- This means that there is not enough safety in the environment for you to feel like you can let your guard down & enter a collaborative space.
- It is important to understand what is creating a lack of safety and work on improving it.
Reflect on the three ingredients to make mobbing a joy — build safety, believe in collaborative work, and respect what your team brings to the collective collaboration space. Take the first step to understand what is holding you back from experiencing this for yourself.
Mobbing (or any form of collaborative work) is a joy and my hope is for everyone to have a chance to experience it.