Five Advantages Of Mobbing And Swarming.

What can software engineers learn from bugs?

For software engineers, context-switching between tasks we’re concentrating on to help colleagues with their own obligations makes it all too easy to become distracted and get de-railed. So, imagine if those individual tasks combine to solve an overall objective – what happens then? Software development can stall because we get side-tracked helping colleagues and attention is shifted between the different component tasks that deliver a new piece of software.

So, what can we learn from our bug friends: not the pesky code defects, but actual insects?

Mobbing and swarming are techniques that are essentially as they sound – software engineers coming together to focus on delivering a single objective. This can be achieved in a co-located manner or remotely with prior rule-setting and a screen-sharing application.

Swarming could be described as the next level to pair programming. It involves a group of three or four developers working on one machine in intervals, taking on different roles to achieve an objective. It’s a valuable way for developers to learn and code as a cross-functional team and focus on the smaller component tasks that bring success to the bigger picture.

Mobbing takes this even further and involves an entire development team – software engineers, testers, BA, UX/UI developers, product owners – all working together on one machine. There are roles to play in this approach – the “driver” will carry out instructions that the “navigator” gives, while the rest of the team – the “mob” helps guide the work.

You can see  here  what a working day might look like for a mobbing and swarming team.


Here are the five advantages of mobbing and swarming:

The combined approach helps move work through the development lifecycle faster by focusing down on each task and moving it along. Individually, it limits each member of the team’s work in progress and means they focus entirely on the task at hand. The reason being is that the task doesn’t need to be moved down the development pipeline; all tasks are done at once, using a continuous flow approach. Tasks are either in the backlog, in progress, or completed.

Knowledge Sharing and Learning
Everyone sits together and learns from each other – about each other’s roles and how they fit into the overall objective. Increased interactivity means the team has an appreciation for the part each other plays. There are multiple eyes on each small chunk of work, so each member of the team gets the benefit of a review. Undoubtedly, mobbing and swarming is a fantastic training ground for less experienced members of the team to learn, or for new employees to feel integrated. Diving into such direct teamwork means they become included faster – especially if they work remotely – and it no doubt aids employee retention too.

This highly direct form of teamwork helps teams think outside the box, by encouraging on-the-spot idea-sharing. Team members that may not have had the confidence to bring ideas to the table previously, feel supported by their colleagues and therefore become more willing to share, helping drive the work toward innovative solutions. Mobbing and swarming also allows for the teams’ agility and cross-functional skills to be improved. The approach requires each team member to utilise not just one skill, but many, in order to deliver successfully.

Cohesiveness – collective mindset
Combining knowledge from different backgrounds improves team mentality, encourages cross-functional thinking and develops a collective ‘ready-to-help’ mindset. The team must work much more cohesively when operating in such close quarters, which ultimately delivers a successful conclusion faster.

Team Building
In line with the above, mobbing and swarming encourages employees to work together. Therefore, not only do they get to know each other better, they become familiar with each other’s ways of working. This combined means better staff morale as well as increased productivity.

About the author

Aliaksandr Nozdryn-Platnitski is a Principal Software Engineer at Godel Technologies. Alongside working with clients on development work, he guides Godel teams on their processes and helps encourage ways of working that conduct better productivity. He and the team learned about the mobbing and swarming practices during LeSS training sessions. They have since applied the approaches with numerous clients, mobbing and swarming remotely to great success.