Organisational Psychotherapy and Mobbing
It struck me the other day that the idea of mobbing (a.k.a. ensemble programming) serves as an excellent vehicle for exploring how an organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs influence its adoption of new ideas, such as mobbing.
Many of the memes appearing in my book “Memeology” have a bearing on the adoption – or rejection – of i.e. mobbing, or even pairing, (pair programming) within and across a given organisation. Which is to say, many of the collective assumptions and beliefs of an organisation have a bearing on its adopting or rejecting new ideas, such as mobbing.
A Normative Experience
I suggest you might like to work you way through the memes listed in the book, chapter by chapter, and consider how each meme – and your organisation’s collective assumptions and beliefs in that area – influences the adoption or rejection of the mobbing idea. You might even consider it as an opportunity to do so in the company of others in your workplace, i.e. work though some chapters together.
Before you embark on that marathon, though, how about we walk through a few of the memes in the sample version of the book, and see how they might influence the uptake of the mobbing idea:
Chapter 10 – Change
It’s probable that adoption of mobbing is a change to the status quo in your organisation. How much of a change depends on the organisation, of course.
Here’s the opening question from the chapter on change:
How do we*, collectively, feel about the general idea of change? Are we fearful of it, excited by it, both, neither, or something else?
*We = potentially, everyone in the organisation, from the most senior executives to the workers on the front line.
What does the prevailing collective attitude to change mean for an initiative aimed at introducing mobbing to the organisation? Might we anticipate blockers and hurdles, a smooth journey fully supported by the organisation, or something in between?
Here are the chapter’s suggested follow-on questions:
- What do we seek from change – how does it serve us and our goals? Put another way, what are the reasons for opening ourselves up to change?
- What things do we see as needing to change?
- For those things, what do we need to change to?
- What do we need to do to effect those changes?
- What things best serve us and our goals, to tackle first?
- How realistic and achievable are our aspirations for change?
- What resources do we have available to help us pursue those aspirations?
- How might we best approach change? Directed and led from the top? Through empowering people across the organisation? Or by some other approach?
- How might we best approach change? An all-at-once major change initiative? Incremental changes in small steps? Or by some other approach?
Working through these questions, with the introduction of mobbing being the change in mind, what are your thoughts? For example:
What do we seek from change – how does it serve us and our goals? Put another way, what are the reasons for opening ourselves up to change?
What do you and the organisation seek from a transition from e.g. developers coding individually, to mobbing? (Not that mobbing is limited to developers and coding).
What things do we see as needing to change?
Does the organisation see the way developers work on coding as one of the things needing to change? If the need isn’t apparent, then some up-front work to illuminate the need might be advisable.
I guess you might be getting the idea of how this meme plays into the adoption of mobbing, by now?
Let’s move on to the next chapter, the next meme:
Chapter 11. Discussion
It’s probable that adoption of mobbing will spur some discussion amongst folks within the organisation. How much discussion depends on the organisation and the folks involved, of course.
Here’s the opening question from the chapter on discussion:
How do we feel about surfacing our collective assumptions and beliefs during discussions with our peers and colleagues?
What are the “collective assumptions and beliefs” of the organisation that might come up in discussions of mobbing?
Here’s a brief and not at all exhaustive list:
- Productivity. Do folks have issues or reservations about i.e. the cost of having 5,6,7 people all working at the same time on a piece of code (or, in the general case, other artefacts)?
- Who owns the way the work works. Do folks assume that a project manager (or some other manager) will own the way developers go about mobbing.
- Process. Will there be a defined, handed-down process for mobbing, or might developers be trusted to own how it works, and work things out for themselves?
- Learning. Are there advantages in having developers instructed in how to mob? Will this instruction be a pump-priming exercise, or an ongoing set of courses?
Here are the chapter’s suggested follow-on questions:
- How might we choose which meme(s) from this book we will discuss, and in which order?
- Do we need to come to a consensus on how to use this book? How to follow up from a discussion session?
- Do we anticipate that attempting to surface our collective assumptions and beliefs during our daily business-as-usual discussions will disrupt and divert those discussions, or strengthen and support them?
- Working through these questions, with the introduction of mobbing being the topic for dialogue in mind, what are your thoughts? For example:
- How might we choose which meme(s) from this book we will discuss when planning the introduction of mobbing, and in which order?
- Do we need to come to a consensus on how to use this book to facilitate the instruction of mobbing? How to follow up from a discussion session?
Hopefully you’re getting a basic idea now of how the memes from Memeology play into the potential adoption (or rejection) of new ideas.
There are many more memes in the book, most or all of which have some relevance to things happening in the organisation. The sample book contains a few, the full version some 70+.
I’d be delighted to hear about your experience in working through the above examples. And for those who proceed to a more in-depth investigation, considering more memes, your experiences with that, too.