Strong Style Pairing and Mobbing - The Smart Keyboard

Keyboard with DSA keycaps
Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash

One of the most powerful approaches to pairing or mobbing is “strong-style”.

To utilize this style, you just need one simple rule:

In order for an idea to go from your head into the computer, it must go through someone else’s hands.

The navigator in a traditional pair (or mob) becomes a smart keyboard. This keyboard is gifted with the ability to questions in order to better understand the problem and solution, or to coach the driver into sharpening their thinking and ability to describe them.

This is a valuable tool for coaching less experienced individuals. It forces them to understand what seniors are asking them to do when they're driving. And when they're navigating it forces them to articulate how want to solve a problem.

Then they get real time feedback on the quality of their solutions from other members of the team. In the event that the more senior members of the team have ideas they feel strongly about while driving, they can and should give the junior immediate feedback by handing over the keyboard and talking them through implementing it the better way.

In this way everyone wins, and it's a much faster feedback loop than traditional code review.

This approach also strongly discourages disengagement whether mobbing or pairing.

As a navigator because you know that you'll be letting the driver down if you don't give them input so they "have permission" to type the solution.

As driver you can't disengage or you're ignoring your team and nothing gets done.

If you can't put your idea to the keyboard without using someone else's hands it's much harder to disengage.