How do you stay agile while completely remote? What is your number one tip?
To help you with staying agile while being completely remote, we asked business leaders and HR professionals this question for their best tips. From making face-to-face time to weekly L10 meetings, there are several tips that may help you to stay agile while working remotely.
Here are six tips to stay agile while completely remote:
Inspect Daily to Identify What is Working
Break Up Work into Discrete, Independent Chunks
Create “Rules For Your Tools”
Hone in Asynchronous Communication
Weekly L10 Meetings
I can sum up how to stay agile in three words…communicate, communicate, communicate.
The entire Agile Manifesto centers around this, from individuals and interactions, to responding
to change it all requires communication. Put energy into ensuring the teams have ways to
communicate with each other in real-time with as much face-to-face time as possible. Do online
team building, weekly peer 1:1’s, an always-on chat room, anything to allow the communication
to as closely achieve colocation as possible. It is harder now because we do not get the benefit
of sitting next to each other, so we must find new ways to have water cooler conversations and
In addition to morning coffee, meditation, and your favorite sweatpants, reaching out often for feedback creates transparency with yourself and the team. Too often, teams working remote sit in their corner and work until they feel something is complete. Unless the team members share throughout the entire process, the lack of transparency could create misalignment with the team, the project, or both which may result in tech debt accumulation. The most efficient and effective method is to inspect daily and identify what is working and what isn’t. Encouraging continuous connection virtually through video conference keeps the lines of communication open, encourages dialog that leads to productive solutions, and facilitates the real-time removal of blockers. No technology can replace one-on-one communication.
My best advice is to lean deeper into the agile mindset and move towards full continuous deployment. It will always be much, much harder to coordinate work into a normal sprint breakdown when you have remote work. We just need to embrace that, as it’s likely to last. Break your work up into discrete, independent chunks that can be deployed independently and quickly, and you’ll find that having removed the distraction of the office, the now-freed engineers will actually increase their velocity.
With so many remote tools ranging from Teamwork to Dropbox to Google Suite; identifying how you and your team will utilize them is hypercritical in today’s remote environment. Setting a specific naming structure will help manage and ensure items are consistently shared to eliminate confusion and/or redundancy. Regularly communicating those utilization and management tool structures will ensure your team and tools eliminate the inevitable digital frustration that can occur, if “rules for tools” aren’t established.
Get good at both short-form and long-form written communication. Use a messenger like Slack for your daily communication. Go asynchronous. This will help you determine whether you need to have time to sync up. See how the team does and decide. At that point, find the minimum necessary time you need to sync up. Scale up from there, as needed. For daily updates, use organized and to-the-point text, with bulleted and numbered lists. Make action items very clear. Think in an abbreviated essay format: Background, Main Content, Next steps. For strategic threads, use Google Docs. Also, think in an essay-like format. Others can collaborate and add their notes.
I’m not a developer. But, we recently implemented weekly “L10” meetings with our development team to ensure that we stay Agile while completely remote. In our meetings, we will bring up “People Headlines” to talk through accomplishments or time out of office. We will revisit our “To-Do’s.” But most of the meeting is talking through “Issues” that have bottlenecked throughout the day. By addressing these issues together as a team, we’re able to find solutions much more efficiently than if we relied on IM’s or email communication. Sometimes, you just need to get together as a team to ensure nothing stands in the way of accomplishing the work you need to do.
As organizations aim to do more with less and better serve customers, an Agile Transformation may be in order.
What is the largest obstacle an organization faces when starting or going through an Agile Transformation?
To help you prepare for an Agile Transformation, we asked agile experts and business leaders about the challenges they’ve faced.
Here are ten obstacles organizations face in an Agile Transformation.
Complexity in culture
Unlearning traditional ways of thinking
Unraveling the non-differences
Mid-level management not being brought in
Shifting control from leaders to teams
Expanding from the team level to the organizational level
Misalignment of a belief system on all levels
Complexity in culture
The largest obstacle to an organization is culture. Culture drives behavior and decisions within
an organization and is paramount to successful transformation. Culture is also the last thing to change and is complex. It is complex in numerous ways, but it starts with what type of culture you want in your organization. Do you want a family atmosphere focused on doing things together like Google? Do you want an adhocracy where innovation is paramount, and employees take chances? Maybe your organization wants a complete culture that is results-driven and competitive? Lastly, do you need a process and procedures for everything? Most organizations need some type of hybrid culture which is another reason culture is the biggest obstacle.
The biggest hurdle an organization faces in Agile transformation is the ‘Mindset or culture change.’ Organization leadership or executives are usually veterans of an industry or business line. They would have worked in that industry or business line for years or decades. However, the new type of problems in today’s digital era needs newer thinking and way of working. Thus these executives’ ability to unlearn their traditional ways of thinking is the biggest difficulty.
Agile, as you may know, is a way of working where it is only successful if you follow some simple principles such as empowering the teams to take decisions instead of controlling, aligning to the outcomes rather than following the processes blindly, purpose-driven instead of financial-focused. Thus inside-out approach, from Culture -> Structure / Processes – Enablers/Tools, is the winning approach. Leadership’s understanding and drive can make-or-break the Agile transformation.
In a word, people. Stakeholders must understand the transformation and how we are going to deliver differently, but better. Teams need to be trained on how to execute this new process and change their mindset. Leaders must also go through a shift in mindset. Anytime you attempt to change someone’s mindset, it’s a difficult journey.
Simply put, it’s the buy-in from the employees that Agile will work. We have all heard the saying, ‘it’s easy to do Agile, but it’s hard to be Agile’ and it’s true. We can’t start to go through a transformation without the buy-in from the employees, where they are empowered to make decisions and have ownership of their products. Leaders are employees too, and they have to buy-in, as they navigate their employees through the ‘waters’ of Agile, in changing mindset and empowerment. Listen to your employees as you go through an Agile Transformation, they hold the keys to being Agile.
Organizations tend to believe that they’re very different and that their problems are unique. Therefore, they tend to think of complicated solutions. Although each organization is unique, the problems they face with a transformation are not that unique. Therefore instead of reinventing the wheel and coming up with complex solutions, they should look around them and see what has worked for other organizations and tailor it to fit their needs and organizational culture.
The largest obstacle an organization faces when undertaking an agile transformation is mid-level management not being brought in. This is crucial, as their roles radically change in an agile environment. They must understand that their new criteria is for being successful and be advocates for the transformation.
When agile adoption is not a strategic priority, organizations default to command and control leadership practices. Individuals and teams are not trusted to make decisions, clogging up the to-do list, stunting innovation, and impeding progress.
Expanding from the team level to the organizational level
Organizations need to have strong executive leadership for agile transformations to be successful. Many organizations think Agile is simply a team level project management methodology. Agile is more about cultural change than it is about process change. Agile is a way of working. Without strong executive leadership to influence the change in culture, agile transformations will eventually lose traction and fail, or the transformation will forever remain at the team level and never expand to the organizational level.
The largest obstacle of an agile transformation is the misalignment of a belief system on all levels – up, down, and out. Leadership can communicate the mission, vision, and direction of the agile transformation but if the C-suite, V-suite, D-suite, and M-suite do not align the transformation will die on the vine. A common belief in lean-agile principles is critical because an agile transformation is a long and hard journey that changes the operational model, funding, and culture. Leaders of all levels have to be on board with and agree on the values and goals they want to achieve throughout the transformation. It’s on leadership to continually cultivate the belief system to all of the suites down to the teams.
Employees have their roles change when an organization undergoes an agile transformation. Not all employees like or embrace change, especially when it impacts a daily routine. Organizations can prepare by knowing that there will be detractors, embracers, and employees who will be indifferent. It’s important that all employees understand why their role is changing, how it is changing, and that there is still an opportunity for them to add value to the organization.
You may have heard of the term “business agility” being used in a book, on a Zoom, or from a leader within your organization.
What is Business Agility?
We asked twelve agile experts to share their definition of business agility. From strategy pivots to empowering employees, these diverse perspectives may help provide a solid definition of just what business agility really is.
Here are twelve definitions of business agility.
The unique ability to adapt to change
An organization’s culture of minimizing problems
Fluidity and flexibility
Attentiveness to trends and market changes
Removing sources of disruption and delay
Adapting to evolving customer demands
Detecting and responding to new data points
Everyone is involved in delivering solutions
Empowering employees to solve complex problems fast
Evolution to product-market fit
The unique ability to adapt to change
In essence, it is the emergent qualities, capacity, or unique ability of an organization to sense, respond, react, and adapt to change. This is done in such a way that they are able to do so and retain or enhance their competitive advantage without compromising quality, integrity, or losing momentum.
There is a myriad of definitions of what business agility is. My facile definition is: Business
agility is an organization’s culture of minimizing the impact of problems. Problems, in this case, can be internal or external and range from disruptors in the marketplace bringing in a new product, to application uptime and infrastructure. I boil it down to culture because in an agile culture the organization will make the necessary investments in tools, training, processes, hiring, etc., to ensure that the agile culture is achieved and sustained.
Business Agility means the business is set to deliver better quality products, faster than the competition. This is done by creating an agile ecosystem where people, products, and customers are aligned using techniques that drive transparency, communication, and collaboration.
Business agility means fluidity and flexibility, with staff and teams able to move seamlessly between roles for the benefit of maximum customer satisfaction. What’s more, resources must be made available wherever they are most needed at any one time. Business agility can be a tricky proposition to get on board with.
Business Agility represents the ability of a company to pivot its strategy. While the vision or goal needs to be static, how we get there needs to be flexible. It also represents how we as a company must be able to pivot our products to fit our customers’ needs
Business agility is a team or organization that pays attention to trends and market changes, responds and adapts to these changes, and takes action to pursue opportunities rather than stagnate in the face of uncertainty.
Marti Konstant, Workplace Futurist and Author of “Activate Your Agile Career”
Removing sources of disruption and delay
Agility just means flexibility, so “business agility” is flexibility in service to the shifting needs of the business. This sounds great but it is so challenging! Management is keyed into all the new opportunities and the fluctuating market so they want frequent changes. Meanwhile, the downstream developers need time to finish the current work. To maximize business agility, you need to look at all parts of the process. Analyzing and profiling incoming work requests helps to organize and sequence the work. Removing sources of disruption and delay will improve the flow of work, clearing the decks to take on new work sooner.
Business agility is the ability of an organization to adapt to changing customer demands as well as to changes within its industry, supply chain, and core competencies. Business agility is achieved by a) streamlining information flows throughout an organization; b) encouraging leadership at all levels of an organization, and c) embracing continuous improvement across all business processes.
Business Agility is defined by an organization’s ability to detect and respond to new data points in a timely and positive manner. An organization with a high degree of business agility can detect an event such as a pandemic and reprioritize its efforts in enough time to minimize risk as well as create a competitive advantage. For example, an agile company in the entertainment business would understand the implications of the pandemic and immediately seek to acquire a digital asset that would allow them to transfer their events into virtual space. Business agility is accomplished by instrumenting your organization with high-fidelity feedback loops at the micro and macro levels. What do your customers want? What does the market want? And then creating a culture and systems to respond to information as soon as possible.
The term agility is often referred to with software teams. Business agility is not just software related, it’s the organization as a whole. What does that mean? For an organization to develop business agility that means that everyone involved in delivering solutions— and I mean everyone — including business and technology leaders, development, IT operations, marketing, finance, legal, support, compliance, security, human resources, and even customers — must all use agile practices to allow their organization to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment without losing momentum or vision. Key aspects essential to long-term business agility are adaptability, flexibility, and perseverance of relentless improvement.
Empowering employees to solve complex problems fast
Adapting. Pivot. Fast. Continuous. People. All words that come to mind when thinking about Business Agility. For me, business agility is adapting to technology, listening to the customers, and empowering our employees and leaders to make the decisions to meet the demands of the market. It’s also embracing a culture of innovation to solve complex problems, fast.
Finding a product-market fit is the key to building a good business. It’s also really hard to do, which is why a term like business agility even exists. Business agility is a continuous evolution towards finding product-market fit, which is a match between your value proposition and customer segments. No business nails product-market fit on their first go, which is why the most successful startups are ones who aren’t afraid of adopting an agile approach.
Since the inception of the Agile manifesto, Agile principles have revolutionized how companies manage their team, paving the way for a modern style of project management. Teams no longer rely on tedious and time-consuming waterfall models and can deliver projects in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
As agile project management became popular, organizations adopted several agile methods, of which Scrum is the most used. While Scrum is useful for delivering projects incrementally, it isn’t ideal for all situations.
In this article, we will discuss some of the issues with scrum in varying situations and how they can be addressed with other alternatives.
What Is Scrum?
Scrum is a part of the agile methodology that aims to deliver business value in the least amount of time possible. Scrum achieves this by rapidly creating usable chunks of the product and making changes according to user feedback.
Since Agile was originally designed for software development, most agile methodologies are tailored for this field, and Scrum is no exception. Development teams create parts of software that customers can directly use and give their feedback on. This helps your team skip tons of straining documentation and move forward with the project faster.
Typically, a scrum team has three roles; the product owner, the scrum master, and the development team. On top of managing the team directly, the scrum master is responsible for being a bridge between the development team and the product owner.
The product owner here represents the interests of all stakeholders, where the development team is similar to other project teams. However, development teams in Scrum are more independent and self-organized, and they must share responsibilities with the Scrum Master.
People in all three roles have daily scrum meetings. In these meetings, they outline what they must achieve and set daily goals. Besides that, they all have to participate in meeting related to sprint review, sprint planning, and sprint retrospective based on the phase of the project going on.
Scrum is ideal for managing highly complex and unpredictable projects where requirements are more likely to change. Scrum gives you the space to deal with unexpected changes in project requirements and deliver features urgently needed.
Scrum emphasizes the importance of accountability, continuous and iterative progress, and teamwork, leading the product towards specific goals. You can learn more about the Scrum Methodology by reading the official Scrum Guide in detail.
Why Doesn’t Scrum Always Work?
In the Scrum methodology, everyone is dedicated to delivering value as rapidly as possible. Therefore, developments must strive to complete value-driven components deliverables in less than a month. In most cases, teams are required to deliver these deliverables inside two weeks.
While the management pushes teams to work on tight deadlines, they also expect the team to develop production-quality deliverables and have working software as they submit an increment. This is why teams must write code, design code structures, and test it. Moreover, they must also create presentations and demos to stakeholders, that too in a short period.
Because of this, many people consider Scrum’s approach to be too unrealistic or rigid. While Scrum is extremely useful to counter unpredictability in projects, for teams with no prior experience, it is also one-dimensional and difficult to implement.
Project managers must eventually grow out of the basic scrum framework and adopt lessons from other agile methodologies. Scrum only gives you and your team a reliable structure to begin with, but you must be adaptable to be successful in the long-run.
It doesn’t make sense to force-fit Scrum to every project you come across. Instead, you should analyze the requirements of every project separately and experiment with other methodologies, as well. Similar to the Design Patterns in the 1990s, Scrum can be used on its own or in combination with another methodology.
As you may have multiple teams in a project, you can use Scrum as a pattern for one team in the beginning. Once you have established a structure for the project, you can monitor the progress on the project and shift to a more suitable agile technique if Scrum isn’t working for your team. Incorporating other tools/patterns can help you develop a more robust and effective approach to management.
Exploring Other Options
You can use other methodologies in combination with Scrum too.
Effective Agile Practices
The high-paced Scrum methodology gives you little time to test products effectively, making software quality dubious. To ensure software quality, you can leverage agile techniques such as Unit Testing, Acceptance Test Driven Development (or BDD), Pair Programming, Continuous Integration, and Test Driven Development. These techniques prevent your code from degrading over time, so they are ideal for software projects.
Kanban is a project methodology that leverages a linear approach to project delivery. It teaches teams to focus on continuous delivery but relieves them from the excess burden. That said, many managers criticize this technique for lacking a defined structure like scrum.
For this reason, many experts suggest using Scrum and Kanban in conjunction with each other. Managers can first adapt Scrum and develop a more optimized workflow.
Once your team is in tune with Scrum’s structure, you can leverage Kanban’s continuous delivery towards the end of the project. Alternatively, you can also use Scrum to develop your project in your desired way and later use Kanban or other agile methodologies for review. Doing so can help you ensure the quality of your final product.
Several companies choose new ways to manage their teams. They use different combinations for different teams. SysAdmin teams are put under Kanban workflows to relieve them from rigid time-boxed sprints, while teams responsible for developing urgent features can leverage Scrum.
In agile project management, no one size fits all. Every situation has unique requirements and you may have to switch your approach from time to time. Regardless, one thing is clear that agile project managers must display exceptional leadership and strategic planning.
Being well-versed in Agile Methodologies prepares you to tackle difficult situations effectively and deal with challenges with greater skill.
At LurnAgile, we are determined to teach you the tenets of the Agile Methodology and help you master Agile Project Management. With our training, you will learn how to augment Agile to your brand of management and nail challenging projects with ease.
To prepare myself to give the SAFe Advanced Scrum Master training classes, it took a good amount of prep time prior to class, much more than any other course I have taught. To prepare myself as a trainer I used the Scaled Agile offered materials. They offer us a great array of tools for delivering the training (both in-person and remote) such as videos, prepared courseware, PI Planning tooling workbooks and more. After putting myself in the shoes of the learner, I realized some additional materials (links with more details on some of the topics as well as a couple videos) would be useful to really help the content sink in.
I tracked down the information I felt that I would need and added them to my course delivery plan. Combining these new materials with the materials Scaled Agile provides would provide the students the right foundation to take the learning back to the real world and apply it to their current roles
As for the course itself, if you’re wondering if you should take it, do you fit into one of these roles?
Existing Scrum Master
Certified Scrum Master (CSM, PSM I, PSM II, and so forth)
Team leader, project manager, or Agile Team facilitator in a SAFe or enterprise Agile context
Engineering or development manager who are responsible for Agile execution and coaching teams, including teams of teams
Agile Program Manager
Prospective RTE (Release Train Engineer)
If you do, great! If not, feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) and I can certainly help you track down the learning that would fit you the best.
The course itself is advanced to say the least. It’s a 2 day course (8 hours per day) and is packed with content. On day 1, it’s mostly a review of the SAFe framework. Day 2 has a lot of XP / Lean / Kanban content that is new to many learners such as : Cumulative Flow Diagrams, PI burn-down charts, and Pair Work . The learning objectives show just how advanced this course is
Apply SAFe principles to facilitation, enablement, and coaching in a multi-team environment
Build a high-performing team and foster relentless improvement at scale
Address Agile and Scrum anti-patterns
Support the adoption of engineering practices, DevOps, and Agile architecture
Learn to apply Kanban eXtreme Programming (XP) frameworks to optimize flow and improve the team’s work
Facilitate program planning, execution, and delivery of end-to-end systems value
Support learning through participation in Communities of Practice and innovation cycles
So glad you asked! Beyond the time with a certified instructor to guide them through the learning and entertain you (such as yours truly), students also will receive the following:
Shared experiences with your peers
Digital workbook with links to all videos and copies of all of the slides presented
A study guide for the exam
A practice test that is scored, but not recorded anywhere. So you can take it as many times as you like!
One-year membership to the SAFe Community Platform
Once you pass the exam (NOT IF, let’s be positive!), you’ll receive a SAFe digital badge you can share on social media
Up to 15 PDUs to renew PMI certifications
Up to 15 SEUs to renew Scrum Alliance certifications
The exam is online, and time boxed to 2 hours. The test consists of 60 questions, which gives you an average of 2 minutes per question. The passing score is 44 out of 60 (73%) so it’s achievable. However, don’t let the 73% fool you. The exam is challenging, but it’s fair. You need to pay attention during the course, actively participate in the activities, and digest (not just read) the course materials.
As you can see this is definitely much more than you will find in the SAFe Scrum Master (SSM), Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) or any other Scrum Master course. The extra knowledge and the classroom experience will greatly grow your skill set as Scrum Master, especially if part of a Scaled Agile enterprise.