What are the Pros and Cons of Mob Programming?

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jul 20, 2022
Updated on
Jul 26, 2022
Table of Content

Programming can get tedious and time-consuming when done alone, which is why Mob Programming makes things more efficient and fun. Mob Programming is a technique where the entire team simultaneously works on the same project.

Let's take a look at what Mob Programming is and how it can help you get your work done more efficiently.

What is Mob Programming?

Originating from Agile software development, Mob Programming is a technique in which the whole team works on the same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and at the same computer. It is an extreme form of pair programming in which two developers work together at one computer.

Woody Zuill founded the concept in 2011 and started using the technique with his team at Hunter Industries, a manufacturer of irrigation equipment. Since then, Mob Programming has been gaining popularity and is now used by many organizations.

Why is Mob Programming important?

Pair and Mob Programming is important because it enables more than one person to work on a problem simultaneously. This is especially important for challenging problems that require deep thought and multiple perspectives.

With Mob Programming, each person can take turns being the driver (the one typing) and the navigator (the one giving directions). This helps prevent fatigue and ensures that everyone is involved in the problem-solving process.

It can also be used as a way to teach new employees the company’s coding standards and best practices. By having them work with experienced developers, they can learn the ropes more quickly and effectively.

Pros and Cons

Mob Programming has its advantages and disadvantages, just like any other software development methodology. Let's take a look at the Mob Programming pros and cons:

Pros

1. All members are equally engaged and invested in the outcome

When all team members work together on the same task at the same time, it's hard not to be fully invested and engaged. This improves code quality since everyone is paying attention and catching errors. Self-organizing teams can also emerge from this type of collaboration.

2.  More ideas are generated, since everyone is involved

Since everyone is collaborating, more ideas are generated and discussed. This can lead to better solutions, since different team members will have different perspectives.

3.  Code quality is usually better 

Mob Programming in Agile produces a more scrutinized code since everyone is looking and talking about it. This leads to fewer errors and better overall code quality.

4.  It's a great way to onboard new team members

Onboarding new team members is easier with Mob Programming, since it allows them to learn from everybody at once. They can also ask questions and get immediate feedback. This is especially true in remote Mob Programming, since everyone is still working together despite not being in the same physical location.

5. Helps build team camaraderie

Working together closely on the same task can help build team camaraderie. This is beneficial because it can lead to a more positive work environment and higher morale. 

Cons

1.  Not everyone may be comfortable with it

Since Mob Programming involves working together on the same task, some people may not be comfortable with it. They may prefer to work alone or in smaller groups.

2.  It can be distracting

Having multiple people working on the same thing can be distracting. This is especially true if team members are talking and not focusing on the task at hand.

3.  It can lead to groupthink

There may be a tendency to conform to the majority opinion since everyone is working together. This can lead to suboptimal solutions or groupthink.

4.  It's not always possible to do

Not every task can be done with Mob Programming. Some tasks may be better suited for individual work or smaller groups.

5. It can be slower

Everyone is working together, which can lead to more discussion and debate. This can make the process slower because everyone must reach a consensus. If time is of the essence, then Mob Programming may not be the best option.

How to use Mob Programming

The Agile Manifesto values "individuals and interactions" over "processes and tools." One way to put this value into action is through Mob Programming, a practice in which the entire team works together on one task simultaneously.

Using Mob Programming is simple:

  1. Choose a task that the whole team can work on together.
  2. Gather your team around a single computer (or projector, if you have one).
  3. Choose a driver and a navigator. The driver is the person who types at the computer; the navigator is the person who tells the driver what to type. 
  4. The rest of the team should watch and make suggestions, but only the driver and navigator should be talking. 
  5. Set a time limit, like 30 minutes or an hour, and switch roles so that everybody gets a chance to be the driver.

The key to successful Mob Programming is communication. The team must communicate effectively to share ideas and collaborate on the task at hand.

Here are some other tips or Mob Programming rules you may consider as a Product Owner:

  1. Have a clear goal - It is essential to have a clear goal in mind before starting the mob session. This could be something as simple as "write a test for the login feature" or "refactor the code for the checkout page."
  2. Take breaks - It is important to take regular breaks so that everyone can stretch their legs and take a break from the intense concentration.
  3. Use a timer - A timer can help keep the mob focused and on track. A good rule of thumb is to work for 45 minutes and then take a 15-minute break.
  4. Keep it fun - Last but not least, remember to keep it fun! This doesn't mean that you have to be joking around all the time, but it does mean that you should create an environment where people feel comfortable working together and sharing ideas.

How can GoRetro help?

Go Retro is a free online tool that helps groups work together more effectively by providing a space to share what's working well and identify areas for improvement. It can be used for anything from daily stand-ups to retrospective meetings, and it's one of the best Mob Programming tools since it’s a great way to get everyone on the same page (literally).

The platform promotes collaboration and communication within the team by allowing everyone to see what others say in real-time. Sign up for a free account and start using GoRetro today!

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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