The new norm

Everyone seems to have posted their tips/tricks/techniques/tools for the new norm with dev teams working from home, so I’m probably not going to post anything groundbreaking (wow, way to convince people to read this post!) but simply what we currently find works for us – it’s just some hands-on experience which might be helpful.

We still have access to our regular tools for kanban boards, wiki (lightweight docs), code repositories, etc. but there are some things which we are just used to doing face-to-face, with sticky notes and whiteboards so these were the tools for which we needed to find alternatives.

Firstly, it was important to let the teams find what works for them – there’s no point in telling everyone to use a particular tool if it doesn’t meet their needs, and who knows better than the teams themselves. Even though we use BlueJeans for video chats and Slack has built-in video calling, when asked how they’ll stay in touch throughout the day they picked Discord – they’re familiar with it (as gamers) and it’s proven to be stable under heavy load.

For retrospectives, we tried a variety of tools; Retrium works well but has a limited set of formats; for more freedom we picked Mural (i.e. it’s just whiteboard) although Google Jamboard or BlueJeans’ built-in whiteboard are great for impromptu discussions as they don’t require us to send out invitations. (Note that when the BlueJeans call ends it just wipes the whiteboard so remember to grab a screenshot!)

One feature we like with large groups is BlueJeans’ facility to set up breakout rooms; using that in conjunction with 1-2-4-All from Liberating Structures.

Obviously, we need to make sure not to put anything confidential or sensitive on these public tools but for ephemeral discussions they seem to do what we need… at least until we find a newer, shinier alternative 🙂 so what are you finding works well?

Update: The addition of Snap Camera has made video calls more entertaining – it’s owned by SmapChat but it can be used with BlueJeans.

How am I making IX a better place?

Our coaching team had a retrospective recently and someone introduced the idea of writing a letter to explain (to a friend or family member) what it is we do as coaches; the focus was “How am I making IX (our company) a better place?”

I failed to write anything as cohesive as a letter, but here are the notes I jotted down, with a few details inserted to make them clearer to people outside our team:

  • I dislike that the question is phrased using “I” rather than “we” because I couldn’t be as impactful without my fellow coaches
  • Supporting people’s desire to grow & improve
  • Encouraging people to learn & try new things
  • Creating a safe space for people to discuss concerns & try to fix/reduce them
  • Helping teams experiment & find better ways to collaborate
  • Making the workplace more engaging
  • Helping the recently-formed Product Development Units increase their effectiveness

It was a really interesting exercise and brought up some great discussion points – definitely a format that I’ll use with a (different team) retrospective in future.

p.s. If you’re still unclear about what an Agile coach does, check out “Agile Coaching in a Nutshell – This is what Agile Coaches do“.

Where do I start?

A few people (aside from those I work with) have contacted me recently asking “where do I start?” or “is there an Agile 101?”

The first thing to note is that it’s not as simple as watching a video, reading a book, or attending a course. Yes, those can be useful introductions, but the most important thing to understand about Agile is that it isn’t a series of checklists or processes to follow – it isn’t a silver bullet to solve your organisation’s problems. In fact, some people dislike/distrust Agile because it can shine a light on problems that they’ve happily swept under the carpet for many years; transparency and honesty are not things every organisation values because it can be a threat to the status quo.
Continue reading “Where do I start?”