How to explain your ways of working to a new team member and teach them agile along the way (MOB-teaching)

Agile Coaching.

Nov 07, 2022  ·  Sandy Mamoli

Agile Coaching

The problem: It’s so boring!

Someone joins the team: Maybe they come from another area of the business or maybe you just hired them. They might have worked agile in a previous job or they might have no idea what that means.

Anyway you, the agile coach, now have to bring them up to speed so they are ready to join the team.

In the past I have struggled with finding a way to make explaining a team’s ways of working fun and interactive. I never thought the old “Let’s have a coffee and I’ll talk you through it” made for an exciting introduction. There had to be a better way!

The solution: Take it to the team = MOB teaching

I reasoned the best way to teach this was to take it to the team. If teams can do MOB-programming, they certainly can do MOB-teaching.

So, I enlisted the entire team for an interactive MOB-teaching session that resulted in:

  • A happily onboarded new team member

  • A team that enjoyed the experience to collectively teach

  • A team that reinforced their own understanding of why and how they do things

  • A team where everyone, including the newbie bonded with each other

How to run a MOB-teaching session

Here’s how you do it:

Team running a MOB teaching session

1. Check-in

Remind everyone that they have been agile for x years/months. Then ask everyone to name one thing they appreciate about working agile (1 benefit).

This will help the new member connect to the why and the “what’s-in-it-for-me”.

2. Visualise the process - what agile meetings do we have?

The table layout for a MOB teaching session
  • Place a rough drawing of the team’s current base process on a flipchart and place it in the middle of a table. Start with e.g. the Scrum process without any of the meetings - just the circles. It will be the team’s job to create teaching material based on this.
  • Ask the group to collectively list all the meetings they have and to write each meeting on an index card or post-it note. You’ll get things like refinement, sprint planning, daily standup, sprint review, sprint retrospective, etc.
  • Ask them to place the meeting cards on the process flow flipchart on the table.

3. Create information cubes

(As the facilitator it might pay off to have one example cube to clarify what you expect)

  • Hand out small boxes, paper, scissors and glue
  • Get people to form pairs (or groups of three)
  • Ask the pairs to create information cubes and to fill in the sides as follows:
    • Why? (Purpose of the meeting)
    • When? (When does our team run this meeting?)
    • Who? (Who attends?)
    • How? (How do you run the meeting?)

3a. Priming the newbie

While the rest of the team create information cubes you can cover the the agile values and principles and team norms with the new team member.

4. Teach

  • Ask each pair to place their meeting on the process board and explain the why, when, who and how.
  • The new member can ask as many questions as they like.

When to use MOB teaching

I have successfully used MOB teaching for adding new team members and for explaining how the team works to neighbours and stakeholders.

Enjoy and let me know how you go!

Thanks to Sam Laing who I co-developed the workshop with. And thanks to the teams from Southern Cross Hospital and Orion Health for being such great participants.

Categories: Agile Coaching.