Advice for Agile teams in organisations struggling in a post-pandemic recovery?

Or as we like to call it – THE SEVEN BE’s

Many of you are now working in companies that are struggling.

We want to give advice for Agile teams in organisations struggling in a post-pandemic recovery. Acknowledging that for many, we are still mid-pandemic.

You may be part of teams that are working through re-alignment after staff loss or re-organisation. 

You may be part of agile teams that now have the mission of re-stabilising and rebuilding a fractured work culture.

This article will give you advice on dealing with this scenario. 

We don’t have all the answers, it’s impossible.  Every organisation is different, and every person is dealing with change in their own way.

However, our experience in using Agile with teams during change will assist you during this phase.  

We’d defined this article around what we are calling “THE SEVEN BE’S”

BE HUMAN during recovery

People are hurting. Now is the time to show forgiveness to others and to yourself. Understand that most of the time people are trying to do the right thing and in some cases just get by.

With all that pressure, there are going to be moments where our interactions go wrong. When this happens, acknowledging and moving on, rather than dwelling on our less proud moments will help create a less stressful environment.

Jian Lee, a consultant in Melbourne says “Empathise with people who may be struggling with other parts of their life, thus affecting their work.”

Steve Walton, a Principal in Melbourne reminds us “This is not a free pass for inappropriate behaviour like bullying, which is never OK, this is about caring more for each other when we need it most.”

BE BRAVE WITH CREATIVITY during recovery

As companies struggle to redefine who they are, and how they get work done, it is time to open ourselves up to see where some crazy ideas lead our thinking.

“If you have some good ideas, throw them out there and see if they resonate.” Says Steve.

Benny Ko suggests “running design sprints to create rapid validated customer solutions for the problems your organisation are encountering.”

BE REALISITC with Agile teams

Be prepared to be told that has already been done, or is not suitable for consideration now, however, be brave enough to share.

Steve says “Times are tough. Being realistic will help you make better decisions in times of change.”

BE CONNECTED with your organisation

Try and stay connected with your team even when working remotely. “Have frequent check-ins outside of the routine ceremonies. Keep an open mind, ask questions when unsure.” Says Jian Lee, a consultant in Melbourne ADAPTOVATE team.  

Continue your commitment to succeed together as a team. Be supportive of others, offer encouragement, nurture relationships, and have fun while doing the work.

BE FOCUSED ON NEW GOALS with your organisation

“Using the Agile approach continuously monitor and adjust your work to suit the customer needs during the pandemic.” says Benny.

The dynamic development of Covid has proven the need for businesses to react faster than ever before. This has been a challenge even for the fast and flexible Agile teams.

The previously set goals become unachievable in the new environment, they do not drive performance and can be frustrating for the teams.

Re-setting of goals and re-focusing of work is necessary.

BE OPEN and HAVE ALIGNMENT across your organisation

Once you have reset goals and re-focused work, it’s important that there is alignment across the department or organisation. Be open and share your goals.

Benny Ko – an agile consultant in Melbourne says “Make sure you have alignment across your teams from top to bottom.”

It’s also extremely important to maintain alignment of teams working remotely.

ADAPTOVATE runs OKR sprints to help organizations identify, design and test new OKRs within a week.  We worked with a non-profit around OKR’s earlier in the year.   Listen to our podcast conversation featuring Jo McDonnell the CEO of GOMO Foundation, talking about OKR’s.

Slawek Koziol, a project lead for ADAPTOVATE in our European office explains “Our coaches help organizations review their current model, decide what still applies in the Covid-19 “new normal”, create new objectives and review them with senior stakeholders. Then they work with each team lead (or Product Owner) to set the key results and finalize the sprint with a Showcase delivering the new OKRs.”

BE NIMBLE WITH PLANNING with your Agile teams

To effectively deal with the post pandemic recovery Agile teams should adjust their planning cycle.

To improve their response some Agile organizations, shorten their planning cycles from quarterly to having Periodic Business Reviews every two months (or even shorter than that).

The adjusted planning cycles and re-set OKR should be transparent within the organization. In current times virtual Mission Control Rooms are a perfect tool for that.  (read about Mission Controls rooms here) (You can download our infographic below).

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Thank you to ADAPTOVATE team members who co-authored this article.


Steve Walton. Principal, Melbourne.


Slawomir Koziol. Project Lead, Warsaw.


Benny Ko.  Consultant, Melbourne.


Jian Lee. Consultant, Melbourne.


What would you do differently weeks ago, if you knew then what you know now?


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Hindsight – We all have it now.

 


We’ve seen the memes – that March felt like a year.   It’s unbelievable how much has happened in the last few weeks.     And what is more incredible is the ability for an entire planet worth of humans, to change behaviour. The above chart is sobering.

While it’s far from over, and we aren’t sure when that will be, already we’ve seen incredible shifts in our behaviour and social norms.  So much, including working from home, to having no sports or teams to watch and follow, no arts or live music to attend.  Some of us have no jobs, or businesses.

REFLECTION (just for a moment, before we forget )

We wanted to pause for a moment at ADAPTOVATE and reflect on the past few weeks.  Very soon, it will all become our ‘usual’.  We may forget the early lessons.   So we asked our team, what would they do differently 4 weeks ago, if they knew then, what they know now.  Before we forget.    We took the time to reflect, and we hope when we do return to normal, we can review our hindsight and perhaps just change our behaviour a little to a new , better normal.

Some of the answers are light-hearted, and that’s not only ok – it’s welcomed.   We actually do miss the fun stuff.   And some of the answers are more serious – which is also ok.   Our new life is unprecedented and it can be useful for us to reflect on this and learn.

Before getting to the team’s thoughts, there were four key themes that came out.

 

  1. Set up my online tools, and upskill expertise in those tools straight away.
  2. Set up routine from the start. Exercise and breaks.
  3. Done that thing – I was going to do and didn’t (lesson:  when things get back to our new normal, perhaps acting on those things rather than procrastinating)
  4. From a business perspective – focus on how you can differentiate from the noise in market sooner
  5. (bonus key theme:  buy more toilet paper) 😉

 

Do any of them sound familiar?    Do they resonate with you?   As an excercise it may be worth having your team, pause for a moment and reflect on what they would have done differently.


person holding clear ball
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

 

Now, Read on to find out how some of our global ADAPTOVATE team responded to question :
What would you differently had you know then, what you know now. 

Ted Tomoyasu  – North America office

Gone to the Lakers vs. Clippers game!

Steve Walton – Australian office

I would focus more on how to think about immediate priorities more from a differentiation perspective, than just a crisis reaction perspective. Now is a time of great change, and also an opportunity, not to only ask, how can we help – but to ask, how can we help differently, beyond the first step.

ADAPTOVATE has great experience from our DNA from being born as a remote first organisation where many of us worked in locations, across the globe with never meeting another team member in person for months at a time. This experience gives us practical insights into how to make it work unique to us.

Our first step was to help organisations get ready to work remote working – most are doing OK, smart people run companies, our difference is about sustaining this. I am looking forward to working with people on how to help them sustain it too.

Mina Gurgis – Australian office

Set a routine – it’s easy to get carried away when working from home and sacrifice having breaks, exercise and family time, so it’s best to set a routine of when to start and stop like we do in the physical office space. Work never ends and there is a higher risk of burning out when working from home for long periods.

Rachna Verma – Australian office

Digitise physical boards and use them in ceremonies for a few weeks to iron out any issues before working 100% remotely

Brooke Pannell – North American office

Three weeks ago I would have taken a long hike and stayed at the beach for longer than I did! It’s been tough cooped up inside, however we have been doing our part to flatten the curve, which is more important than getting out of the house.

Shannon Gilliam – North American office

I would have set up a new routine that focused on a more productive work/exercise/life blend. And I also would have invested in a better work from home setup. Having the tools that make working easier and more enjoyable – dual monitors, separate keyboard, post-its, etc. Knowing that I now have these things will make any future needs to adapt easier.

Benny Ko – Australian office

Introduce online tools to the team and train the team to use these tools effectively

Caitilin Studdert – Australian office

Swum with the Bold and the Beautiful swim group at Manly

Chelsea Bates – Australian office

Other than purchase some paper towel before it ran out, I would have allowed set breaks in my calendar after week 1 of remote working. Working remotely means a lot more video calls (which are great to stay in touch and aligned) and sitting down at 8.30 and not moving for hours.

Setting a 5min break regularly to walk outside, get some fresh air and stretch helps me stay sane and focussed.

Sean Woon – Australian office

In hindsight probably not much as we are used to living with uncertainties in my personal life. We have learnt previously to “focus on the now” and simply do what is in our control at the time.

So based on that, whatever we were doing 3 weeks ago, it would have been the right thing for that time. As a consequent we reacted to getting more toilet paper early, and currently have just enough to last for a little while 🙂

Andy Koh – Singapore office.

Upskill on existing collaboration and Agile tools available I would improve my expertise on existing collaboration and Agile tools available. When remote working became reality, some of the people I work with quickly realized the usefulness of online tools like JIRA, MIRO and TRELLO.

Very quickly people started asking how such tools can be used in replacement for face-to-face interaction since they are the next best thing available. Practical and experience-driven hands-on demonstrations became valuable immediately.

Plan a regular exercise regime I have found that exercising regularly keeps my spirits up. At the same time, staying at home for long periods of time dampens my spirit. To find balance during this difficult time, I would have planned for a regular exercise regime three weeks ago and kept to it to ensure a healthy mindset.

Looking back, I spent the past three weeks experimenting with different time windows and types of exercises before finding the right mix.


What would you have done differently?

12 Ways To Motivate Remote Working Teams


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REMOTE WORKSHOPS – It can be done. Here’s how.


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Note: we are not affiliated with any of the tools mentioned below.  This is just how we have learned from experience the tools we know and can recommend.  There are a lot more out there, so you can take our suggestions or find what works for you.

REMOTE LEARNING & WORKSHOPS. – DOING AGILE VS BEING AGILE

As Steve Walton from our Australian office says

“Adaptability and ingenuity in remote working is part of the ADAPTOVATE DNA.”

We acknowledge there is a flood of information out there on remote working currently.

However, we wanted to drill down and look at how you actually run a workshop when you are all at home in your office!  Your workshops can continue.

ADAPTOVATE has extensive experience in setting-up of remote teams and facilitating remote sessions. We have proven many times over that remote sessions, if done right, can be as effective (or more!) as physical ones.

Remote Workshops are an important mechanism to accelerate learning.

Companies we help are seeing an increase in their training ROI, because we tailor the workshop learning objectives to target specific learning profiles within their organization.

We also tie these objectives to key results the organization is seeking to achieve. There is no one size fits all approach to training.

Catering to the remote learning profiles to sustain learning and self-discovery is a huge differentiator for companies doing vs being agile, and actually applying the principles of business agility.


ADAPTOVATE WANTS TO ASSIST YOUR ORGANISATION.

Here’s our plug – we can’t stress this enough – this is not about commercialising the COVID-19 virus.  ADAPTOVATE are genuinely seeing a need for teams and business requiring assistance with remote business.   We are here to help you and have people in Australia, North America, Europe and Asia, who can jump on a call or video now to get you up and running with remote working in your time zone.

Fiona Royall, a senior consultant in Australia explains “We are experienced with working with distributed teams so have vast experience in setting up teams for success. We help teams create norms, establish ways of working, facilitate workshops, meetings and conduct training virtually.

We’re knowledgeable about methods, practices and digital tools that can enhance how workshops are run and our people have deep skills and knowledge of facilitating workshops remotely.” Fiona says.


Below we’ve outlined a way to get up to speed VERY QUICKLY with conducting remote workshops successfully.

In fact, the irony – you may be workshopping already via remote means, ‘how to work remotely’.   We are in difficult times!

It can be overwhelming.   But you can start with these two principles.   Work on how you are going to get each of these right – and you will find everything does fall into place more smoothly.

Download our free poster for your home office wall
Download our free poster for your home office wall

THE TWO KEY PRINCIPLES

1.    PRESENCE

2.    TEAM COLLABORATION

 

The key here is maximizing the key factors critical for workshops – presence and team collaboration.

PRESENCE

Presence requires 3 critical things:  Tools and Rules of Engagement and the right Facilitation method.

 

  1. TOOLS. – In our 24-page guide (download here for free) we go over more thoroughly the tools you can use.

Presence can be maximized with the use of a video conferencing tool and making sure proper rules of engagement are in place.

Brooke Pannell, a consultant from our US office says “Good tools for collaboration are key for remote workshops and meetings. At minimum, a company will need a good conferencing platform for audio and visual, and the ability to whiteboard during meetings. The best tool allows multiple people to collaborate and edit at the same time, so everyone is involved and engaged.”

 

2.     RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.

  1. Camera on
  2. Mic on
  3. Mute if not speaking
  4. Signalling the need to speak
  5. Introducing yourself when speaking
  6. Ensure that both your facilitating company and clients have tested the online collaboration tool so that connectivity issues are fixed prior to the workshop
  7. Login to the call 5mins early to avoid a delayed start
  8. Use chat functionality as a holding bay for questions and ask the Facilitator to answer them

 

BONUS tip #1 Set clear workshop/session objectives

Kayla Cartwright from our US offices recommends “Have aligned assessments and tell participants how their learning will be assessed. Incorporate frequent checks for understanding and pauses for written synthesis of key section takeaways to ensure learners are actually thinking and learning.”

 

  1. FACILITATION FOR REMOTE WORKING

    Enhance your facilitation technique. Our Managing Director in the US Nathan Nelson says

    1. Take regular pauses and check for understanding.
    2. Make sure to engage each team member.
    3. Spend more time at the beginning making sure everyone understands objectives and outcomes.

BONUS tip #2: CO-FACILIATOR
Slawek Koziol from our Europe office suggests:  – “Having a co-facilitator monitor the videoconferencing tool for visual cues, chat and other signals can help maximize presence. “

Andy Koh from our Asian office agrees: “Taking note of ‘quiet’ participants and calling them out to answer questions makes a large impact on perceived ‘presence’ during workshops. Prompting and guiding conversations also serve to make people feel involved.”

 


TEAM COLLABORATION

Team collaboration can be maximized from the very beginning by these three things:

  1. Making sure participants receive relevant information and materials beforehand so that precious team time is not wasted updating everyone and making sure everyone is familiar with videoconferencing software.
  2. Online collaboration can be supported with simple web-based tools (like Miro or Trello) – these allow even for large groups of people to collaborate effectively in real time, sketching and arranging ideas on virtual post-its or moving and updating virtual task cards. (See our free guide for more information on these).
  3. Ensure regular interactions. Help design activities that require interactions during the workshop Workshops are all about learning and applying immediately. At ADAPTOVATE, we conduct workshops that ensure interaction between participants at regular intervals, even if they are conducted remotely.

 

BONUS TIP #3: INTERACTING: Andy Koh from our Singapore office suggests:

“One such example is the story mapping activity we conduct. During this online activity, we use instant collaboration tools like Miro to ask participants to all contribute remotely every 10 minutes or so. This keeps participants engaged and ‘present’. A similar effect can be achieved using online polling tools like Mentimeter.”

 


A LIST OF THE TOOLS useful for remote workshops:

VIDEO CONFERENCING
Google Meet
Microsoft Teams
Zoon
WebEx

CLOUD STORAGE AND REALTIME EDITING
SharePoint
Google Drive
Dropbox

REAL-TIME COLLABORATION
Miro
Trello
Mentimeter


REMINDER:  ADAPTOVATE have developed a 24-page free guide to help you make REMOTE WORKING SUCCESSFUL.  Head over here to download.


We’d like to thank the following ADAPTOVATORS for helping with the above article:
Kayla Cartwright, Ted Tomoyasu, Anthony Librizzi, Rachna Verma, Brook Pannell, Steve Walton, Benny Ko,  Nate Nelson, Fiona Royall, Mina Gurgis,  Andy Koh and Slawek Koziol.