Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Putting together a new Mob

Hello. I’m Llewellyn Falco and recently I embarked on forming a 5-person mob to be hired for full time employment. This series is about our journey where I will share the good and bad so others can benefit from our experiences.

This week:

Putting together the Mob

The final 5 of us all meeting for the first time for a get to know you dinner

A very common question is
“What’s the right number for a mob?”

Of course, there is no right answer for this and we tend to use the heuristic of

A mob is the right size as long as:
Everyone is learning or contributing

However, if you are assembling a mob for full time hire then that heuristic is not very valuable.  So here is what I used with the best understanding I have as to why I choose these strategies.

Size: 4-6 people

This really came from the idea of the Amazon 2-pizza box team. I wanted a team that was small enough to really operate as a team. I did not want to try to start more than one mob at a time and I didn’t want the “scrum of scrums” approach. We were looking for the “matrix of indepenant services”


Finding the right people is always a tricky thing. I wanted an all-star team of some of the best programmers I know. As such I quickly made a list of the top 20 programmers I was aware of in southern California. This gave me a playing field, but there was still a lot to do.

Gathering Talent: There are the practicalities that none of the best people were unemployed, which makes it harder to hire them. However, this is a real plus for mob programming. Being able to work with the best people is a real incentive for the top people and many people on the list were willing to explore this opportunity despite already having great jobs.

Skill Sets: I also needed a good mix of skill sets and personalities. When I say skill sets I don’t mean the trivial things like json or c#; anyone can pick those up quickly in a mob. 
I mean harder to learn things like: 
artistic ability, 
algorithmic thinking, 
sense of style, 
emotional intelligence, 
creative problem solving, 
I wanted a good mix of these harder to learn prophecies to create a more diverse mob.

I ended up with a 5 person mob ( 2 people turned me down ). I had worked a little bit with each of them on some open source projects and some of them knew/worked with each other beforehand but we had never worked as a mob before.

But now we had chosen the mob. We met for dinner (pictured above) and set out on our next adventure.

Next week:  How a company interviews for a 5 person full time hire.

About the author:

Llewellyn Falco is the creator of ApprovalTests & cofounder of TeachingKidsProgramming. He is currently a consultant and Technical Instructor. He introduced Woody to the randori style of programming and has been a fan of Mob Programming since the beginning. 
You can follow him on twitter at @LlewellynFalco or email him at isidore at setgame.com

1 comment:

Nancy Van Schooenderwoert said...

Really glad that you're blogging about the new mob. I am curious about the limits of this approach when the work has functional specialties - like in an embedded systems team.

- Nancy Van Schooenderwoert, @vanschoo