Running Scrum Remotely

Post by 
Anthony Collett
June 12, 2020

ow what? How are we going to launch this project? How do you take a team that is mostly new to Scrum, who maybe don’t know each other, and have seen each other only once before, and have them work together remotely as if they were in the same physical room? How do you take approaches that have been working for months, while co-located, and apply them to remote workers?

Add-in the complexity that members of the team will be working odd hours, around childcare and other responsibilities, and you can see why many organisations have just hit the pause button rather than attempting to progress.  

But this is an opportunity missed – now is a chance for you to dive into your hardest, most taxing projects. Take advantage to refocus your teams on what is most important. How can you use agile/scrum to ensure that when lockdown ends you are in a position to accelerate, rather than having to spend weeks/months getting back up-to-speed?

You accomplish this by using the time to focus on your delivery processes – get things done!

And here’s how:

Firstly, you need a set of loose guidelines – you can’t expect your delivery teams to keep the same approach/process that has worked in the office.

  1. The Daily Scrum: It ain’t broke – leave it be. Fifteen minutes of video or audio conference call, in which progress is evaluated, any kind of problems shared, and solutions offered, and the next 24 hours planned accordingly. The time of the meeting is agreed upon by the whole team and is kept the same every day.
  1. Working Hours: During this time everyone has different expectations on their time. For example, I work from 6am to 2pm and then look after my kids for the afternoon. Chose times when everyone can be there for key meetings but retain flexibility.  
During what you determine to be working hours, a commitment should be asked from the whole team to keep themselves available to answer chat messages or take part in calls. However, if someone finds themselves being climbed on by a kid or having to do the weekly food shop then so be it – they can be caught up separately. Trust that your team want this to work, want progress to be made and they will work that much better.  
  1. Presence: Setup a “team room” call (Skype, Teams, Slack), where anyone could join, and whoever was available could just sit muted in the background, if not engaged in active discussion, to create an illusion of a collective workroom and foster the water-cooler style chat that is so effective.
  1. Communications: Apply the horses for courses approach, let the team create any kind of communication channel it felt is needed, either for work meetings or just to talk and get to know each other. No limits to this. People need to bond and establish connections organically.
  1. Flexibility: Establish a bit of a temporal leeway for bigger meetings, that would traditionally have fixed timeframe (like Planning, Reviews and Retros). This will account for communications lag, breaks in audio or video, and general life interrupting work, in a context where kids and other family members are sharing our “office”.
  1. Respect: There is a strong determination to respect work hours. A sustainable pace has to be found and the temptation to think of each of us as always available all of the time must be curbed.
  1. Leadership: It must be made clear, time and again, that Scrum Master/ Product leadership would each be available to hear and help if any team member started to feel overwhelmed or overtaxed.

The moral of the story is focus on trust, flexibility and value. One of the core principles of Agile is to welcome changing requirements. As I write this, whilst sharing my desk with a four-year-old I’m trying to teach to write, I can see the truth in this statement. Our daily lives have shifted but I’m finding myself more efficiently using the time I have and feeling more motivated to achieve something valuable each morning.

Anthony is our Head of Product and coaches' organisations on how to get the most out of Agile delivery & how to be a high performing Product organisation.

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