The world is changing, becoming smaller and smaller everyday thanks in large part to technology.
Remote Teams and Culture Hacking
I’ve been privileged with working with a few companies that embraced remote work and teams. A few more than others but none more than Linaro. The company had two offices officially, but the vast majority of folks worked from home from all over the world. The group that I worked with had representation from 11 countries and 3 continents. The entire company had folks from over 2o countries.
My primary job was to implement Lean-Agile thinking, Agile, Scrum and Kanban. There is quite a different approach needed when implementing a collaborative framework intended to bring people together when everyone is apart.
It takes three primary things. Perseverance, discipline, and tools.
You have to be in it for the long haul. You will get rejected. You will be ridiculed. People will do everything in their power to tell you it won’t work. Ignore them and march on.
When changing culture we have to eliminate the toxic parts.
Toxicity comes in many forms and one of those is a lack of consistent use of the new value system and modus. As a coach you’ll have to constantly remind teams of Shu Ha Ri and refocus them on the fundamentals until you see the team self-perpetuating relentless improvement and continuous learning behavior. Discipline is still the key even when teams have mastered the basics.
Tools. Use technology to bring people together. Linaro made effective use of Google Apps, Blue Jeans, the Atlassian Suite, and a host of open source and internal tools to make working remotely almost the same as being physically next to people. We used video for everything. Even quick calls. It takes some practice but it is absolutely critical. You need to build relationships. Strong ones. To do that you need to notice the floating world globe thing in the background and ask your coworker how the heck does that work?
The Daily Scrum or Stand-up
A common failure pattern for teams and scrum master is not making the team stand-up. This becomes a bigger challenge with remote teams. As a scrum master you need to be a total bear (aka a jerk, not a teddy bear) about the time box. If you don’t, you’ll wind up with a dreaded “status” meeting and your Agile will feel more like a Freddie Taylor re-make or another dinner at the Three Three’s restaurant.
Always accommodate the best time slot for everyone. Even the people in Noida or Bangkok or Bangaluru who are 12 hours off from the civilized world. 🙂 That is a joke. Laugh. Live a little. This may include your comfortable uber geek ass getting up at 5am to facilitate the stand-up.
Use the force young padawan. And the tools. Get everyone on a Google Hangout or Skype or whatever. Even for the 15 minutes, yes. If I can’t see you, then I can’t read you and get all the communication necessary.
Scrum masters, keep track of who needs to do a meet after and make sure you remind everyone at the end that they need to reconnect after the standup. Try to follow up with those folks during the day or at the next stand-up to find out if the interaction happened. If your meet afters are not happening then you are missing the value of the Daily Stand-up.
Mix it up often. Don’t do the three boring ass questions every single freaking time. On some days, just have the team walk the board. Some days just open the floor to anything or any purpose for the time box. This is what leadership means. Inspire. Learn. Lead.