BONUS: Aligning Agile Remote teams with Luke Szyrmer

Aligning teams is not only the challenge we face as Scrum Masters working with remote teams. There’s also the stakeholder side, and aligning stakeholders is even harder than aligning the teams we work with. 

We discuss some tactics, as well as a key metric to keep our eye on: “the velocity and quality of decisions that happen around the teams.”

Scrum team consequences due to missing alignment

When teams and stakeholders are not aligned, we can see decisions being delayed, or even ignored. All of this leads to a direct impact on the team’s ability to deliver. Luke shares with us some anti-patterns and some tips he’s collected over the years. 

We learn how important it is for Scrum Masters to keep tabs on the communication, and alignment between different departments (not only between teams), and we discuss how sometimes the solution is “more meetings”, leading to the inevitable meeting overload anti-pattern. 

We also discuss and describe some of the anti-patterns that emerge when teams and departments lose alignment. 

Solving the lack of alignment

When it comes to helping departments and teams get aligned, Luke suggests we try what he calls “sensemaking meetings”. These are meetings that help us find answers to questions and improve shared group understanding of a topic or situation. But there’s another goal for sensemaking meetings: to build the necessary interpersonal networks that are needed to solve future problems.

Solving meeting overload: an experiment

Just like many of us have experienced, Luke also experienced moments when there were too many meetings. In this segment, he suggests we try an experiment he tried before: cancel all meetings for 2 weeks. We discuss why you may want to try that experiment, what were some of the consequences of trying that experiment, and the good things that happened once people started to realize that some meetings were actually useful and necessary. 

Dealing with unreasonable expectations

There’s another aspect of remote work that leads to problems at the team level. The fact that work gets hard when remote, and that stakeholders are now more distant from the teams, leads often to unreasonable expectations. These expectations can cause problems at the team level, through high levels of stress, and between teams and stakeholders because of missed expectations. In this segment, we discuss the dynamics that lead to unreasonable expectations and what we can do to help both teams and stakeholders adjust their expectations to the reality of remote work. 

About Luke Szyrmer

Luke is the host of the Managing Remote Teams podcast. Luke has managed or participated in fully remote teams for almost a decade. He has lead programs of widely distributed teams. Over the last 9 years, he has lead teams building software, running marketing and sales, and launched a bestselling book. Remotely. In many cases, with people he never met or spoke to in person.

You can link with Luke Szyrmer on LinkedIn and connect with Luke Szyrmer on Twitter

You can also follow Luke’s work at AlignRemotely.com.

SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A with Lisette Sutherland, #Remote meetings don’t need to suck!

#Remote meetings have been a topic that affects Agile teams for a long time. As many more teams go #Remote without previous experience, they become an even bigger topic for Scrum Masters who now need to facilitate online meetings almost every day.

In this episode, Lisette Sutherland (creator of the Work Together Anywhere Workshop) joins us to share her insights on how to make those remote meetings rock!

When going #Remote, it is harder to get the life/work balance right

Continue reading SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A with Lisette Sutherland, #Remote meetings don’t need to suck!

SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A on #Remote work with Katja Zorina

Katja is an Agile Coach in an organization that had to organize a distributed/#Remote Big Room Planning session in less than 24 hours! Listen in to learn how they pulled it off.

One of the key learnings from that effort was that a #Remote event will take a longer time (maybe 3-4 days) than a locally organize Big Room planning event. But there are many more insights that Katja shares on this LIVE Q&A

What have been the biggest challenges for you and for the teams that you support?

Continue reading SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A on #Remote work with Katja Zorina

SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A with Molood Ceccarelli on #Remote work

Molood joins us in the special LIVE Q&A episode to talk about Distributed Agile software development and many tools, tips, tricks, and techniques for teams that just recently moved to a #Remote-first work setting.

The POWER framework for successful #Remote meetings

Continue reading SUPER SPECIAL: LIVE Q&A with Molood Ceccarelli on #Remote work

Your cultural anti-patterns are AMPLIFIED by remote work. Are you ready? (Tips for Scrum Masters)

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Scrum Masters often have to face cultural anti-patterns when working with teams, and the organizations they are part of. Those cultural anti-patterns are being amplified by the move to #Remote work due to the #covid19 situation.

What can we do? How can we get ready?

Here are some tips to get you started or to help you further adapt to this new reality.

Lack of transparency is even worse when #Remote

There are many Scrum Masters that come on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast and share stories that relate to a culturally-engrained lack of transparency. This lack of transparency takes many forms:

  • Team members don’t share their struggles in the Daily Standup because they perceive that as a sign of weakness (for example)
  • Product Owners don’t share the reasons why certain changes are brought into the Sprint, perhaps because they themselves don’t know
  • Other teams we collaborate with don’t share changes to a dependency we have on them

Whatever symptoms of lack of transparency you experienced when working in the same office, those symptoms will only get worse when our organization moves to #Remote work. Some of the reasons are:

  • Individuals are less engaged and motivated due to the stress, or being distracted by the presence of children while they work, or because they don’t see (and therefore don’t take into account) their colleagues during the day
  • Sudden tasks or priority shifts are communicated to individuals, and the rest of the team isn’t physically present to witness that change
  • Now that we’re distributed we miss out on all the spontaneous collaboration that used to happen.
  • etc.

Tips for Scrum Masters to increase transparency and foster collaboration

As Scrum Masters, we must be deliberate about improving transparency and collaboration in #Remote teams. Our domain of expertise is collaboration, and we must keep adapting to enable collaboration at all times. Here are some tips, that may help you improve transparency, information sharing, and collaboration between team members and with other teams: 

  • Have a collective retrospective with the teams on which your team has regular dependencies
  • Discuss with the Product Owner how to share changes to the Sprint so that all team members are aware and can share their possible impact on the work they have to finish
  • Move to a shorter Sprint. Agile is about creating more, and faster, feedback loops. As we go #Remote those feedback loops are even more important. Shorter sprints provide more transparency (problems are found faster), makes the amount of work smaller which helps with clarity (shorter stories), and with identifying and solving process problems in the team, and across teams
  • Have 2 daily check-ins

  • Integrate more often. If you are integrating with dependant teams at the end of the Sprint, consider bringing their work into your daily build pipeline, or assign specific team members on both teams to work on integration from the start of the sprint
  • Track dependencies on other teams just like you would a User Story. Understanding of dependencies will grow during the Sprint. Make sure you are covering that dependency on the Daily Standup if nothing else to learn that “everything is proceeding according to plan”
  • Create an URGENT Slack/Teams channel, so that team members can always explicitly ask for help to solve a problem they are facing. When #Remote, even waiting one more day can make the problem harder to find.

When we are #Remote, collaboration and cooperation are harder to achieve, and transparency can be a critical trigger for that collaboration to flourish. Consider what you can do as a Scrum Master to improve collaboration. Every day.
Stay Safe, #StayHome

More tips, and more insights from the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast

We have started a page to help you deal with the reality of #Remote work. Bookmark this page to easily access all the tips we share related to #Remote work. In this page you will find blog posts, as well as links to the YouTube videos of our LIVE Q&A sessions with #Remote work experts!

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