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Swarming: A Team-based approach to getting work done

Philip Rogers
Jul 23, 2017 · 3 min read
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Which of these sounds like a more desirable outcome at the end of an iteration?

  • 70% percent of user stories 100% done
  • 100 percent of user stories 70% done

It’s hard to imagine too many customers or other stakeholders who would be happy with the second option. The purpose of this blog post is to provide some simple advice about ways for team members to work together to get user stories to done.

Swarming Defined

On one end of the spectrum, only two team members could be working on the same user story, while at the other end of the spectrum, ALL team members could be working on the same user story. Taking the latter example even further, all of the team members could use “mob programming” to focus on solving a particular problem (or completing a user story) together, using a single computer.

Swarming patterns (sample combinations)

  • Developer-Tester
  • Developer-Designer-Tester
  • Developer-Developer
  • Developer-Developer-Tester …

Any combination could of course be employed. There is no one “right” way to swarm.

Swarming scenario

Swarming variations

  • Identify a particular day of the week as “swarming day” for a particular team

What are some advantages of swarming?

  • Real-time code review: By having more than one developer working on a user story, you are essentially getting a real-time code review.
  • Potential time savings: It might seem counter-intuitive, but with multiple people involved early there is a lower likelihood that there will be a need for rework later, especially if a tester is included early in the process.

What bad things can happen if teams do not swarm?

  • The team is less likely to be able to achieve continuous flow

innovative agile techniques and practices

As an alternative to drawing a box and saying "everything…

Philip Rogers

Written by

I love to work with teams to help them improve. Most of my recent experiences are with teams using Lean/Agile approaches (variations on Scrum, Kanban, XP).

innovative agile techniques and practices

As an alternative to drawing a box and saying "everything inside is Agile," this collection is for anyone who is looking for techniques that inject spontaneity and fun, and encourage open sharing of perspectives.

Philip Rogers

Written by

I love to work with teams to help them improve. Most of my recent experiences are with teams using Lean/Agile approaches (variations on Scrum, Kanban, XP).

innovative agile techniques and practices

As an alternative to drawing a box and saying "everything inside is Agile," this collection is for anyone who is looking for techniques that inject spontaneity and fun, and encourage open sharing of perspectives.

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