My coding tour has officially begun! Not at the first stop — that’s next week — but at the zeroth. By happy happenstance, Olaf Lewitz heard I had a spare post-SPA day in London and connected me to David Heath at the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service.

Lean Coffee

After meeting David for a morning coffee to get to know each other and plan the day, and meeting the team at standup, all of us decamped to a mob-programming-friendly meeting room for a Lean Coffee. Some topics we covered (with me in particular noisily moving my mouth around a lot):

  • TDD: theory vs. practice
  • Pair programming: how to do it best
  • How much up-front design to do in a new project
  • How to test an async module in a synchronous one

Refactoring as a mob

With the 45 minutes before lunch, we decided to tackle a desired refactoring (string primitive to value object) as a mob — their first time mob programming. The team really took to it: drivers doing well listening to navigators, navigators doing well making their intentions understood by drivers, and new team members doing well in new code with new people. I helped by running the timer, asking a clarifying question here or there, gently admonishing the driver when it looked like they were expressing an original thought, and writing down things we noticed along the way but didn’t want to act on just yet.

After lunch, David facilitated an introduction to Liberating Structures for a regular meeting of an internal GDS community group. I’d heard of these from my SPA co-presenter Tim Bourguignon but hadn’t made their direct experiential acquaintance. David had us play out exercises with Triz and Troika Consulting and reflect briefly on when we might like to use them. Between the exercises and David’s take-home gift of a deck of facilitation cards, this may be how I finally learn and apply Liberating Structures! (Coaches love facilitation cards. This was a great gift.)

Mobbing again

The team then reconvened as a mob to continue the refactoring in progress. I had to leave for the airport 45 minutes in, so we said our goodbyes. I suspect (and hope) they carried on mobbing. I’ll be curious to hear how and when they decide to use the technique from now on.

It was only a day with David and team at Government Digital Service, a short one at that, and sweet. We didn’t even have time to reflect together on how it went. Speaking for myself, then, it was a perfectly serendipitous start to my tour. I’m eager to see what changes when I stay with a company all week — and am about to find out.

Just before leaving