Remote agile teams typically use more video conferencing and extra written communication than collocated teams to stay synchronized. While perhaps not as effective as direct face-to-face communication, these approaches make up some of what is lost from sitting together and provide the advantage of being easily recorded for later access.
This asynchronous access to information is especially valuable for globally remote teams that may not share the same work hours. By accessing content on-demand, people can contribute when works best for them and sync up with the rest of the team at preset events.
Remote Onboarding Challenges
Onboarding new team members can be a challenge for remote teams. Introducing team members, explaining agreed to norms around process and tools are traditionally done in-person. Writing all of this information down along with the justifications and discussions around the decision process is a significant undertaking.
GitLab, one of the most successful all-remote agile development organizations, has onboarding materials that would occupy over 8,000 pages if printed. As organizations transition to more remote-friendly structures, documenting how teams work is becoming more critical.
Disciplined Agile for Onboarding
Fortunately, Disciplined Agile (DA) can help. It contains a vast tool kit of approaches accompanied by industry vetted analysis of when they add value when they do not, along with the pros and cons of implementing them. Teams can use the DA tool kit as the starting point for describing their way of working.
Using the upcoming DA Profiler tool, teams can debate, discuss and decide on their ways of working. The tool captures the goals, decision points and trade-off tables of each selected process or technique. Then, when new team members join, they can be pointed to the saved profile representing the team’s way of working. This saves creating lengthy onboarding materials and descriptions of processes.
Of course, processes should not remain static but instead, continue to evolve as teams and businesses learn and develop. So, at regular intervals, teams are encouraged to review and update their way of working and create a new definition. DA provides a robust strategy to support this and the goal “Evolve Way of Working.”
Keeping it Real
A strength of DA is its realism and pragmatism towards how organizations work. Not all organizations are fully agile yet, nor perhaps want to be. So, if some traditional, serial practices are still in use, that is OK; DA supports it. If Team A uses Scrum with two-week Sprints, Team B uses Kanban with continuous flow, and Team C uses SAFe, that works too.
DA is approach agnostic and capable of supporting a variety of popular techniques along with custom hybrid solutions. It also embraces a set of principles that make building guidance for remote agile teams more successful. These include: “Be pragmatic,” “Context counts,” “Choice is good” and “Enterprise awareness.” These principles provide practical advice teams can apply to define their remote ways of working.
Mind Your Toes
Returning to the GitLab onboarding process, they promote a fun principle called “Short toes,” which comes from when people join the company and frequently say, “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”
At GitLab, they aim to be accepting of people taking the initiative in trying to improve things. They recognize that as organizations grow, their decision-making speed often slows since more people are involved. However, this can be counteracted by having short toes and feeling comfortable letting others contribute to their domain.
Short toes is a great concept that is required if organizations are to scale and evolve successfully. It aligns well with another of DA’s principles, “Be awesome,” which is all about striving to be the best that we can and to always get better.
Adapting to the challenges of more remote team members and new all-remote teams creates the need for better onboarding resources.
DA provides great scaffolding to build onboarding handbooks that document how teams have selected to work without making manuals with thousands of pages. It supports group-based discussion and selection of techniques, ongoing refinement and offline access. Perfect for onboarding today’s increasingly remote workforce.
Photo credit: Umanix
Disciplined Agile (DA) has always recognized that some teams work remotely and now, given the need to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19, we are applying our own advice with our DA training offerings.
Starting in early March we reworked our instructor-led training (ILT) offerings so that they can be delivered remotely by qualified instructors. In the picture above we see two Certified Disciplined Agile Instructors (CDAIs) from Umanix delivering the Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master (DALSM) certification workshop virtually. As you might expect, the instructors are using video conferencing software to work through the courseware with the students, but there's much more to it.
The DA workshops have many hands-on exercises, both games and case study work, in which students collaborate to learn critical concepts and techniques. In the bottom left-hand corner you see an exercise in which a group of students are in a breakout room and are working together. In the face-to-face (F2F) version of this exercise students move cards around on a table and discuss their decisions as they go. In the virtual version they move images around on the screen. In both cases the instructor is observing and helping the students where necessary. Once the group work is over the students then do a "wall walk" by going into each of the breakout rooms to see and discuss how other groups approached the problem.
We've been very lucky in that one of our DA Training Partners has been delivering DA training to globally dispersed teams for years. They agreed to take the lead and share their experiences and techniques with our other training partners so that we can successfully bring DA training to you remotely. In short, we've been in a position to apply proven remote training strategies so that your learning experience is the best that it can be.
Don't worry, DA Training Partners will still be offering face-to-face training once it becomes safe to do so again. And we'll also continue with virtual workshops as well, because my gut tells me that we're going to have a lot more distributed Disciplined Agile teams in the future.
Please visit Disciplined Agile Training to discover our current workshop offerings.
While face-to-face (F2F) collaborative work is often preferred, many of us now find ourselves in a situation where that may not be an option for the foreseeable future. Recently many organizations have asked their staff to work from home whenever possible. For those of us who have been working remotely for years this is business as usual, but for many of our colleagues this is a new situation. We all need to get better at working remotely, and an important aspect of that is making teleconferencing calls effective. So I thought I would share some tips that I've found to work well.
I've organized these tips into four sections:
The best calls are the ones that start well, and an important aspect of this is people joining the call well. Here's what you can do:
It's the responsibility of everyone on a call, not just the person facilitating, to ensure that the call runs smoothly. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Think about the last time you were on a call, and you were looking at other people over the video feed. You were probably assessing how they were groomed, how they were dressed, and what the state was of their work area is.
Nobody likes wasting their time on a call where nothing is accomplished. Effective planning and good facilitation can go a long way to making a videoconferencing call successful.
One last bonus tip: You are welcome to copy the image at the top of this article and use it as a quick reminder list of the key tips in this article. Print it and tape it to the side of your monitor if you like!
Please feel free to share this article with others or print it out so that you can keep it handy. We’ve also put together a short tip sheet that you can tape to your monitor.
I would love to hear about any other tips you would have so that I can update this blog and share them with others. Thanks in advance!