Some Advice for WFH Agile
Whether you're new to work from home or have been doing it for a while, here's some advice for staying Agile.
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The now popular Agile methodology, with Scrum methodologies being popular cousins to Agile, has taken off since the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Many things changed with the coronavirus, however, as remote working became one solution for the current problem. This imposed changes in the current approach of managing Agile teams. Since these teams work based on close groups and one location, the main challenge is to keep the same productivity level in a sudden transition.
Agile teamwork enables direct contact, immediate communication, and problem solving. This will speed up the decision-making process, allowing for better fact-based decisions. Agile teams that don’t have experience with remote working will find the sudden change difficult. The new approach will decrease cohesion and, therefore, obstruct the whole process.
Boost the Digital Interaction
The abrupt shift has created the urge to replace face-to-face communication with its digital alternatives. Video conference tools, chat, and virtual whiteboards are some of the tools available. Although these will boost participation, there is a need to revisit the norms and ground rules for communication.
The process of adjusting to the new tools will increase cooperation between team members. When someone has difficulties navigating through the tools, others can offer practical help. The standard routines should be adjusted to integrate the use of whiteboards and different digital tools. Teams also need to revisit the communication rules and adapt them for virtual use.
Sharing creative ideas was usually done with sticky notes, which makes modification and organization easy. With virtual whiteboards, there is a risk of not seeing the bigger picture. This problem is common with large teams, so members need to put more effort into distinguishing the individual priorities.
Teams should leave space for personal interactions. Video communication can improve collaboration and maintain personal contact.
Since the team members work from home, they might not feel comfortable on video conference. The casual atmosphere makes it difficult for them to divide their work and personal lives. They might be interrupted by family members or don’t feel confident showing off their workspace. However, the team should be aware of this and accept every challenge. Also, each member should be able to set their limits regarding the use of video technologies.
Blending Work and Private Life
Should you set a precise line or blend work and personal lives? People that live in small communities usually live and work in the same place. There is no clear distinction between work and personal lives. Seeing a family member in a video conference is very common. When the process allows, people can introduce their family members to their colleagues.
When members encounter background distractions, they have the option to mute their microphones or turn off their cameras. For example, if a child needs to be taken care of or they need to do other home activities, members can use earphones. This will help them keep up with the process while responding to their home duties.
How to Improve the Work Process
Turn the Camera On
Although it is virtual, face-to-face communication will provoke engagement and develop trust. It enhances the use of body language and makes conversation flow smoother. Tell your teammates if you have a reason for turning off the video.
To reduce the background noise and distractions, make sure to get the right equipment. Add a pair of headphones with a microphone to avoid getting distracted.
Don’t Underestimate the Whiteboard
According to the Agile Manifesto, a whiteboard makes communication more convenient. Digital technologies allow team members to talk in front of a whiteboard.
Get proper tools
There are lots of digital tools that are meant to simplify the remote working process. You can use video conference tools like Zadarma, Zoom, Webex. Share essential files via Dropbox and Confluence. Use Slack or Teams to chat with your teammates, and set guidelines on Trello. Even when using good tools, teams need to ensure that everyone knows how to use them. Invest some time to get familiar with the tools and not get interrupted during the process.
While it is true that applying strict Agile or Scrum methodologies in today’s reality faced by many around the world will not meet with much success, Agile’s strengths weren’t based on the strict adherence to principles. Rather their strengths come by adapting their tenets to the needs of the team and stakeholders.
Agile teams have lots of tools in their hands to boost productivity. Invest some time discussing the norms and getting familiar with video conferencing tools, virtual whiteboards, and chat software.
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