BEING AGILE IN COVID TIMES
The COVID-19 created socio-economic crisis, forcing thousands of companies to re-craft their plans to handle the situation
Companies need to enable employees to work from home to ensure seamless customer deliveries. Having whole team working from home was something that never happened before….so there is a need to tweak the approach to working remotely and be productive.
Today’s management team never experienced VUCA at this level !
Being Agile at these times is of paramount importance !
Agile leaders* to spearhead teams working from home to show their virtual leadership by adopting good practices supported with digital collaboration.
In this post, Agile leaders means Agile Managers, Leads, Agile coaches, RTE’s, Scrum Masters,…
First and foremost, review the work and safety agreements for everyone in the team.
- Well-functioning internet connection at home
- Office Desktop or Laptop (with data Encryption, Camera enabled & good Headset with mic) to work from home
- Dedicated quiet workspace at home and disciplined working hours
- Access the work through VPN or similar connection
- Adherence to companies data privacy, security and confidentiality policies.
- Ensure all work time is recorded
Guardrails – Agile Work From Home
The key guardrails helps to navigate Agile leaders through these COVID times with resilience, setting the stage for recovery, transformation and growth….the new normal that will, eventually follow the pandemic.
- Refinements with clear business understanding, solution and prioritization helps to reduces significantly the planning time
- Scrum Master to facilitate frequent refinement meetings (weekly once for one hour) instead of long meeting to connect with business/product owners in preparation for the next sprint.
- Define planning sessions over two days with fixed breaks.
- Don’t refine the features, instead utilize refinement meetings.
- Planning is most productive when all voices are heard encourage everyone to contribute in the exercise.
- To estimate, go with client provided tools or try free digital platform like ScrumPoker & PlanIT. Or simply make fingers the index of the Fibonacci numbers to play planning poker during virtual meeting.
- Virtual daily Scrum – engage the team to speak taking turns until everyone contributes about their work.
- Scrum Master must actively observe facial expressions and body language to determine engagement
- Time based meeting – Stick to answering Daily Scrum 3 questions
- Risk and Impediments to be maintained at accessible location
- Ensure development team does Frequent code Check-ins.
- Avoid long demonstrations with all sprint features/stories at one go.
- Go with multiple demonstrations during a sprint, which helps to managed virtual time effectively. (Can be one demonstration every week for 4 week sprint OR demonstrate the feature/story as its done).
- Ensure team uses DoD checklist before every demonstration.
- Team should conduct smoke test before every demonstration; this should be added to DoD checklist.
- Retros are difficult without storming boards..!
- As most of us working from home, need to engage good interactive tools.
- Try tools like FunRetro, a Trello board or Kanban board in Microsoft Teams, IdeaBoardz,..etc. these will help team to add cards in real time, it will create a much more engaging and interactive experience.
All these ceremonies to be done virtual Face-to-Face, with self-discipline and good practices.
The big-room PI- Planning is not possible during current situation, as the event is very important to make the business going – Agile Leaders* need to run PI-Planning event virtually.
First, communicate to use of Face-to-Face tool to attend the virtual events.
- Example : WebEx, Skype for Business, MS Teams.
Create primary and secondary virtual rooms
- Primary room should be open during the entire event and will act as the common forum to ask questions and collaborate across teams as needed.
- Secondary rooms are required to facilitate team breakouts.
- There should be a separate room for each team.
Preparation proper Prior PI-Planning
- Scrum Masters should ensure Dev team and Product Owner sync-up multiple times, so that the team gets detailed understanding, product backlog items and their dependences.
- Make breakout sessions efficient – Activities such as team capacity, identifying risks, dependencies, refine user stories, and create draft plan for each iteration prior to virtual PI Planning event which helps reduce the time needed for team breakouts.
- Record the refined and prioritized product features at least 2 weeks prior to PI planning.
Maintain digitally accessible tools
- Digital Program Board: Utilize client approved Agile management tools like JIRA-Agile, CA- Agile Central boards that can be customized to simulate the Program Board. OR if client approves use free versions like Miro, Mural, piplanning app
- Risk Board : Risks must be “ROAMed” by the agile team, ensure to provide online link where everyone can update Risk Board.
- PI-Planning Retrospective: Make use of Client approved tools or IdeaBoardz (free online tool) to capture members feedback on event.
Virtual Coffee/Chai break
- Scrum Master to facilitate 15 minute break time – an informal handshake must be encouraged between the team members with light humor
- Intermittently invite client team members who are closely working with team.
- Try these at-least thrice weekly.
Water Cooler Talks
- Allow Water Cooler conversations during regular Agile project ceremonies. This enables collaboration among team members during these distance working times
- Agile leaders are required to be available always for WFH employees through multiple means of technology (Skype, MS teams, Slack, Jaber, Email, Phone, Text etc.)
- Be careful – don’t micro-manage and over-communicate with members.
- Once in two weeks, Scrum Master to conduct 30 mins survey to understand teams morale;
- Survey is done using throwing fingers (as votes) by each member, when average votes are 3 or below- there will be discussion to understand concerns.
Virtual House-party/ Happy Hours
- Beyond office hours members can collaborate to celebrate recent successful delivery or birthdays events.
Virtual Town Hall
- Agile leadership team to conduct virtual town hall meetings to collaborate, share – client and organization covid19 updates;
- A platform for responding to generic concerns, improvements or clarification.
These times, it’s more important to prioritize team’s physical, mental and emotional health by educating healthy habits at home.
- Get morning sunlight and fresh air
- Take short breaks from workspace connect with family members, move around the house, listen to music get news-updates…
- Eat healthy – plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Get enough sleep
- Keep body hydrated with water and juices
- Have a good workout routine ( min 30 minutes )
- Stay connected with friends beyond your office colleagues.
- Tune in to Companies Webinars on Health topics such as Dealing with Anxiety, Stress.
- Follow company communications
Also refer WHO Coronavirus Advice https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus