LESSONS IN LOCKDOWN

At the heart of agile working is the idea of bringing people, processes, technology, time and place closer together to find the most appropriate and effective way to deliver impactful outcomes. While there are clear methodologies and approaches to facilitate this type of working, for many agile teams, this all changed when Lockdown came into place back in March last year and they had to become remote agile teams.

With many of the Exception team based on client site running agile teams as Scrum Masters, this new way of working had the potential to disrupt productivity levels and delivery outputs. While in theory location shouldn’t really matter when working agile, the reality, as many will have found in recent months, can be quite different. Most agile teams we were working with were accustomed to being located together, attending stand-ups at 9:30 every morning and handing over stories at each other’s desks. There was a real concern about how remote working would impact the ability of agile teams to successfully collaborate and engage within the team and stakeholders.

To mitigate the risks that remote working exposed for their teams, our Scrum Masters came up with four key principles to maximise the effectiveness of agile working in a remote environment.

illustration showing remote agile teams

1. Apply Structure to your Stand-Ups

Have a standard set up of questions which you use in each stand-up, for example:

> What caused you issues yesterday?

> What are you aiming to do today?

> Is there anything blocking you?

2. Make sure your Stand-Ups are Time-Boxed

Our Scrum Masters were mindful of the fact that the stand-up might be the only time that some of the team would speak to others that day, increasing the risk that the stand-up could lose its structure and run long.

Be ready to quickly pull the stand-up back on track if there is any deviation from focus or too much discussion on a specific topic, ensuring that stand-ups are short, sharp and on point.

3. Get the right tools in place and use them!

With everyone working remotely, it is more important than ever for agile teams to make use of project management tools such as Jira which allow you to:

> effectively manage stories and sprints

> improve sprint planning

> decreasing the risk of overcommitting on the sprint goals

> determine an accurate velocity rate, allowing teams to review scenarios where the velocity differed between Sprints and reflect upon any significant differences between them.

Collaboration tools such as Teams are also really important for remote agile teams, allowing you to communicate effectively, share work and engage with your teams and stakeholders.

4. Be Prepared

To encourage contribution and maximise the effectiveness of any collaboration, preparation is key. Creating and distributing document templates prior to interactions can help give your meetings structure. For example, for Sprint Retrospectives, our Scrum Masters distribute templates to their teams for everyone to complete and return prior to the Retro taking place. They collate and anonymise the themes in the responses and use the templates as an aid to discuss what went well, what the team should continue doing and what they could improve upon.

While the switch to remote working has brought many challenges, it also forced us to review how we do things and reset our delivery approach and processes. This has allowed many agile teams to become more effective and adaptable, with new practices that will remain in place even when normal office working resumes. By reviewing our processes and making changes to our approach, our Scrum Masters’ and their remote agile teams have been able to ensure that projects are delivered on schedule and to budget while working completely remotely.

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