One of the key tenets of agile methodology is that team members sit and work side-by-side, with frequent face-to-face communication. Can this technique be adapted to remote and digital working? The answer is yes, and here’s how:
As one remote engineering firm explains, online project management tools such as Trello can replace moving post-it notes along a conference board.
The 15-minute daily ‘standups’ can become start or end of day online posts to a designated Slack channel where team members share what they did that day, what they plan to do tomorrow and any blockages – and can comment on each other’s posts at a time that suits them. This also provides a searchable record and an induction tool for new joiners.
End-of-sprint retrospectives (‘Retros’) can still happen – but this time using video conferencing – with tools also available to facilitate private brainstorming to avoid groupthink. Demos of the minimal viable products or initiatives at the end of a sprint can be submitted as an animated GIF that other team members can access at their convenience.
Recorded video conference ‘deep dive’ sessions with a small audience can help explain the context and constraints of the project – again this is something that anyone outside the team or new to the business can access at a later date.
Other tips include making sure that those working remotely aren’t made to feel like they’re merely the ‘helpers’ to the core co-located team. Setting up cross-location quality reviews means that all locations know enough about what each other are doing and can deal with any issue with the project, even if one location is offline due to time differences.
Let it work
Finally, with both face-to-face and digital agile working, the danger is that this technique is implemented without people truly understanding how or in what circumstances it is designed to work – see previous blog.
For example, if leaders continue to launch lots of initiatives rather than prioritizing which to work on first, or schedule lots of additional review meetings outside of the daily stand-ups and start/end sprint meetings, or become heavily involved in the detailed work of the agile teams, or set up agile teams for an issue that doesn’t need lots of collaboration – then this will just become another cumbersome exercise in bureaucracy.
However, used effectively, it can be an efficient and engaging way of organizing complex virtual and digital work.