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Collective efficiency and teleworking in an agile context: it works!

Wed 16 Dec 2020

Before the health crisis, teleworking was offered to employees on a fairly ad hoc basis, with physical interactions still preferred during different meetings, workshops or individual interviews, particularly in an agile context requiring daily collective commitment.

However, with the wider use of teleworking, many seem to think that agile principles are difficult to apply and are even likely to increase the workload.

One of the effects of teleworking is undeniably the increase in requests: what could be processed in 5 minutes in a direct verbal exchange now requires a merciless hunt for the slots available in each person’s diary. Faced with these difficulties, the dynamic is gradually broken, many things are put off and the risk is that everyone advances on a parallel backlog neither defined nor prioritized by the core team.

But contrary to popular belief, collective efficiency and team spirit do not depend solely on the working environment and physical proximity. What the Agile method recommends above all is working together, communicating and sharing information regardless of the context or geographical location.

Here are 5 best practices to help you stay on track and benefit from the agile principles:

How do we do it as team?

Even before launching your sprints and planning your agile ceremonies, bring your teams together via an audio or video conference and look together at how to work effectively in this somewhat specific context. The idea is not to carry out an A to Z redefinition of your working methods but to adjust your rules according to the constraints of each person. Eg.: a sprint review lasting one hour instead of two or postpone the sprint retrospective by one sprint, etc..

Timekeeper is key

During your meetings, remember to prepare a clear agenda and share it with the team beforehand so that those who wish to can add to it. But the most important thing, at the start of the session, is to appoint a timekeeper in charge of ensuring the agenda is respected, refocusing the participants if the meeting is moving away from its objective and even audibly rephrasing something when decision-making is necessary.

Agile tools are your best friends (and there’s plenty of them)

Whether for project management, the sharing of deliverables, the organization of meetings or brief exchanges, there is a whole range of collaborative tools (without license purchases for some) that will make it possible to boost your interactions and engage your team members more in your projects. Eg. JIRA-Confluence to monitor progress via a kanban or scrum board and share your documents, Slack to interact with the team on a daily basis, Skype or Zoom for videoconferencing, because seeing each other remains important for group unity, Planning Poker to plan your upcoming sprints, FunRetro or Sensei to make your Retros, Featuremap or Klaxoon more participatory for your remote workshops and without paper post-its etc.

Do the flexible sprint

Never hesitate to engage your team in discussion on the duration of sprints and the quality expected. Should it be smaller so that the sprint rate, tests and sprint review content are more digestible? Above all, we must not be afraid to ask ourselves the question. The important thing is to be effective together by taking into account the many circumstantial constraints. Listen to each other, set realistic sprint goals together and adjust your sprint back along the way if necessary.

Hello, can you hear me…

And when problems and delays build up, stay calm and improvise a feedback session with your team to take the temperature and identify what works well and what doesn’t. Give the floor to each member of the team so that nothing is left unsaid, and to ensure that everyone can understand each other’s difficulties. The aim is to make the team aware of areas for improvement in order to continue to be effective and collaborate calmly. This awareness may result in a change in behavior or communication, or even in tasks to be included in the backlog. Day-to-day, think of actions or words of encouragement that will have a direct impact on the team’s state of mind, the motivation of the team members and their degree of involvement in the context of this fairly stressful crisis.

Agility in teleworking situations works – provided certain conditions are respected. These rules must be defined and validated by the entire team, taking into account the deliverable requirements as well as the context in which each person is working. Being agile does not necessarily mean following the Agile manifesto to the letter. The principles, ceremonies and other tools serve the team, it’s up to the team to know how to use them to its advantage and depending on the organization.

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Marie Louis

Digital Marketing Consultant