As current events force non-essential employees to work remotely, Agile teams face an inevitable transition. It’s important to get this transition right in order to ensure team productivity and business continuity. Even more so as remote work is mobilizing to become the new normal with companies like Square and Twitter announcing that employees will have the option to work from home on a permanent basis. In this state of affairs, an Agile and remote corporate DNA offers a distinct advantage. Yet, building such a culture in the middle of a pandemic may seem a little like building an aircraft while flying it. Fortunately, the building blocks are all things that with a little practice can quickly become embedded in your remote Agile team DNA. Fully remote Agile teams are in our DNA.
Consistency Builds Reliability, Repeatability for an Agile Enterprise
A consistent approach across Agile teams goes a long way. For example, for our Agile teams, that consistency starts even before we work with a customer via our Agile Delivery Training Modules. We continue building on that consistency with Team Agreements (Working Agreement, Definition of Ready, Definition of Done) and scheduled regular Events (Stand Ups, Refinement, Planning, Retrospectives) so that all can attend. As Agile teams engage in a consistent schedule, reliability will grow. While we don’t advocate that everyone on the team must work the exact same hours, having a window of time each day where everyone gathers is instrumental and is something we promote as part of our Team’s Working Agreement.
Consistency also applies to deliverables. As the team works on User Stories and Epics together, consistency keeps projects from fracturing and grows predictability of outcomes. In addition, we strongly empower Teams to review their work earlier with the customer. We have found this approach is especially critical to our success with customers who are in a transformation journey from a Waterfall Methodology to one of the Agile Frameworks that we support. At the beginning of each customer engagement, we focus on training that ensures everyone is on the same page with regard to expectations, deliverables, and more. In this way, we are able to scale consistency and achieve repeatability.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
There is no such thing as too much communication in a remote environment. While the Daily Stand Up is a good foundation, consider collaboration tools to help establish a culture of communication. These mechanisms can be powerful, especially for asynchronous communication across time zones and work shifts.
While working closely from a distance may sound antithetical, with the help of several tools, teams can communicate and collaborate effectively. Our Agile teams like to use
- Slack as it moves communication out of email (which can be siloed) into a direct communications vehicle that facilitates teamwork through channels for direct messaging, file sharing, and more.
- Trello for its ability to provide real-time input and feedback. Unlike traditional Waterfall Gantt charts, our Trello use empowers the Team to make changes throughout the day, providing detailed transparency into the team’s activities.
- BVCs. Big Visible Charts like Information Radiators are important for transparency, sharing progress, and provoking questions that ensure the team continues to drive value. If you are used to working in a physical space, BVCs might traditionally be placed in a high traffic area. In a virtual environment, those high traffic areas are your collaboration tools.