Coordinating distributed and remote working teams is not easy. It has its own benefits and shortcomings too. A rigid manifesto will not work for every situation and every organization. Thankfully, Agile methodology gives us the freedom to stay true to its principles and yet customize its methods for our needs.
Though many companies had to adopt remote working because of the pandemic, our teams despite being distributed, were always building Agile software products just the way our clients wanted. Still, when our two teams split further, with each employee in a different environment, we had to tweak our model a bit, emphasize certain good and essential practices to stay intact as a team.
In Agile Teams, a Scrum Master is very crucial to empower teams and build the right team spirit. The pandemic has redefined the rules. Here are some essential tips for Scrum Masters from our experience in staying truly Agile during the pandemic.
The most important tip to any employee, more so to the Scrum Master, is to listen intently and show empathy. Everyone has their own struggles and hurdles. Unless we keenly listen, we can’t understand and estimate correctly. Listening is the key to maintaining momentum and staying on track.
2. Value Both Employees and Customers
Of course, accomplishing the tasks is most important. But it is not always about work. Employees who feel undervalued will not give their best, and customers who feel undervalued mightn’t want to continue the collaborations. Balancing both their interests is a tight rope walk the Scrum Master must take up every day. Though it might sound impossible, it is perfectly do-able. The key is to listen and assure them that you value them.
3. Transfer Abstract Ideas to Concrete Actionable Goals
Everyone feels good when their professional goals align with their work needs. However, abstract goals hardly translate to actionable ones. If the Scrum Master can identify and communicate how they align, employees become valuable assets. For example, working hard and smart is an abstract goal that can be translated to tips on writing clean code, suggestions about workshops and webinars that can help the team-members in their work.
4. Ensure Flat Hierarchy
Before Agile, the teams operated in a hierarchical set up. In such a set-up team members focus on climbing up the ladder even at the cost of their personal goals and interests. A Scrum Master is not a team lead. He/she facilitates team communications and is very much a part of the team. Agile allows for openness among the team members and a flat hierarchy is essential to practice it.
5. Check Employee Growth and Satisfaction
Sprint retrospectives and reviews are great ways to promote employee growth and satisfaction. Work in Agile teams is collective. The team members share work and responsibilities. Such teamwork makes finger-pointing impossible. When team members are not judged but understood and guided, they find great satisfaction and learning at work.
6. Use Agile Tools
In remote working conditions it is difficult to maintain the team spirit and bond well, while still following up and getting work done. Agile tools help us in communicating better and form virtual but truthful connections. Using a virtual team space, or virtual rooms is great team engagement method to assess each other’s workspace and plan together. Moreover, these tools foster transparency among the team members.
7. Review and Evolve
Review work status regularly and do not be afraid of evolving. For example, there is a higher risk of any of the team members falling sick during the current pandemic. At coMakeIT, we shifted to cloud-based development environments and it helped our teams stay resilient. Such remote work models are possible because we reviewed our conditions and took appropriate steps when needed.
8. Be Flexible
Gone are the days of rigid work models. If Agile changed some of them, the pandemic has changed many more. The pandemic has taught us that businesses that are willing to accept changes and be flexible can survive disruptions
All methodologies should change with time and prevalent conditions, so should Agile! Today’s work culture is very different from that of pre-COVID-19 days. Similarly, post-pandemic work culture will be different from today’s work culture. Our remote working teams might evolve into hybrid teams, meeting up on location only when needed. A Scrum Master should assess the situation and prompt a change when needed.
9. Be Creative
Get creative by finding out ways to help the team form connections and communicate clearly. When changes are fast and too many, we need to think differently and come up with innovative solutions. Fun activities in Sprint retrospective meetings help the Scrum Master in giving constructive criticism without offending anyone.
Automate routine and monotonous work and find ways to have fun. Such efforts are not optional anymore. Stressful times demand innovative solutions to balance the rigour of work with other activities.
Though Agile might seem to be just a methodology developed for software companies, its foundations are based on widely accepted values and principles. This wisdom has been collected by the industry over many years and shaped by not only brilliant minds but also by great philosophers. Reducing it to rigid rules is undermining the efforts of those great contributors.
All rules, including the ones mentioned here, should be adapted, and followed only after checking if they suit your work conditions. Do you have more to add to the list? Please mention them in the comments. Finding your own way of staying Agile is essential and that is what the methodology is all about. If you are on the Agile path opt for good and meaningful collaborations over a lonely journey. Joining hands is essential to stay relevant and grow faster. If you are someone with similar values, please collaborate with us.