Woody Zuill: Mob Programming, A Whole Team Approach

Published 08 Nov 2013

Woody on stage

Woody claims that is not a public speaker, but rather a mere programmer that has been given the privilege to speak in public. If that is the case, I want more programmers to speak in public, since I found this to talk to be one of the best of the conference.

Roy seems to have charmed everyone. Everyone loves him. Everyone talks about him. And yes, his talk was very humble and relaxed, with a perfectly leveled humorous approach to the subject of the hour - mob programming.

Woody practices mob programming with his team and has done so for quite some time. It works very well, for them, but he still does not recommend mob programming. He does not recommend anything. He does not tell us to do anything. He only tells us how they do it and what works for them. No silver bullets. No universal truths.

Mob programming is having a bunch of programmers working on the same thing at the same time all the time. Woody showed us some pictures from his work to give us a hint of how they practice mob programming. He then showed a fast-forward movie that skipped through an entire day, his team working in front of two big screens, one driving, the others navigating. The video had great annotations that described what we saw, which made the process perfectly understandable. Very good.

In mob programming, you apply the driver/navigator paradigm, using one driver and several (the rest of the team) navigators. The entire team is constantly working as a unit. As the day goes on, we see people move around, always present but also free to take time away to perform individual work.

“So, how does mob programming scale?” he asks. “I have no answer to that. All I know is that we tried mob programming and it works for us”. Wow, you really can’t accuse him of selling anything.

Woody packed the hour full of fun questions and quotes, like “We changed the timer sound to be really loud, like a kitchen time. Oh, do you have kitchens in Sweden?” Or what about “How can we be more productive with five people at one computer. I don’t know. I just know that we are.” Or how about “I don’t know about the keyboard. Basically, it’s just used to get the code into the computer.”

What are the things that destroy productivity

Woody wrapped up hos talk by going though things that kill productivity. See the image above, then check out the video. It’s a great watch.