COVID-19 - A new way of working

COVID-19 - A new way of working

Anurag Singh
22nd Jul, 2020

COVID-19 - A new way of working

Covid-19 is an unprecedented event and incident, it has impacted one all in one way socially or professionally. No one has done any exercise before being ready to cope with such a situation with any disaster recovery plan. 

In such a situation, Being a True Agile Team and following the Agile Principles, it’s important how quickly we respond to the change and further accept & adopt the ways to tackle it. It's a virtual world now and people/Team members are distributed, working from home from different locations. This COVID-19 situation has given us the opportunity to assess and understand how resilient we are as a True Agile team.

The tough test of teams is ahead…

In the current situation, where the way of working is totally changed, it's important to retrospect quickly to identify what are the challenges and if you are able to identify the challenges, Issues, and blockers fast then there would be surely one or many ways to address them.

Below is the list of a few major Challenges which Teams face:

  • Network Issues and Power cuts/outages are causes of intermittent disruptions. A blocker to work with full efficiency and cause of frustration.
  • An ergonomic arrangement is not available at home which is causing health issues (I.e. Back pain, Neck pain, etc).
  • A Semantic gap, working from home, Individuals, and interactions that are dependent on tools and technology, sometimes in virtual calls, we assume that another person is listening but might be due to tech issues he/she couldn’t hear, and then the information exchange in virtual communication is not 100% complete and it couldn’t be realized also that what and how much info is missed at either side.
  • The office-like environment is missing and in the current situation where there are other family members also working from home then finding a suitable isolated place is challenging further to it who all have younger kids or babies,  finding it tough, as kids sometimes disturb during the call. Sometimes background noise of Fan/Air is disturbing too to others in the call however no other way in the summertime to cope with this situation.
  • Lack of Classroom Training and Learning sessions for new joiners which are effective compared to the Virtual world of training and learning.

What we did:

  • Timely communication is key in a distributed working environment and hence created another channel of communication where the team can connect in an emergency situation and do timely communication in case of any issues (i.e. Team’s Whatsapp group, Google Duo group, etc).
  • Health is wealth - team members are following a Healthy work lifestyle by involving Fitness activities (I.e. Yoga, Meditation, etc) and following a healthy diet plan including Herbal, Immunity booster diets, etc.
  • Accept and respond to the change to make a balance by gradually enhancing the situation and creating an office-like environment at home going forward where family members are supporting you to work efficiently. Treat and inculcate the sense of agility in House members as well and practice being Agile at home as well.
  • To avoid duplicate and waste efforts for the same and repeated issues that are faced by other team members, a centralized forum/Task (JIRA/Confluence) to update the issues and their resolution/fix to be referred by others.
  • Respect the call timing which is set as per the agreement and ease of all, join a few minutes before to timely address if any issues, and if it’s unavoidable and cannot be fixed in time then make the timely communication to your team.
  • Friday Learning Session (TogetherVLearn – Enabling Agility), Fun sessions & Fun exercises, and weekend challenge game by the team for the team to keep all team members engaged, connected, and united in the virtual healthy team environment.
  • Changed the format of the Daily Scrum call to start with the Health update of team members and their family members which turned up very positively and sympathetically.
  • Arranged some activities where team members are engaged as a team to work on a given challenge to find out the solution or work on the Ideas like Ideation, and What-if scenario activity to foresee the worst what anyone can think of and the possible solutions and approaches to deal with the situation.
  • Shared the learning and recommendations from Team with Higher Management in the Org to seek management support. Few items to list – (A. Delivery of Desktop monitors and other peripherals to ease out the daily work. B. Certification and Learning cost reimbursement where it’s adding value and skills to the current role etc).
  • A poll was conducted to get the view of the team for WFH possibilities with 2 questions A. Do you want to continue WFH with the occasional visit to Office? B. Do you want to resume work from Office and occasionally WFH?  Surprisingly, Poll's result came out 50/50 where the Younger population of the Team went for option 2 and senior team members opted for option 1.
  • Started Slow, involving everyone got a prioritization of Tasks Personal and Professional with timing, and gradually the Brownian motion is aligned to pick up the swift velocity.

Finally, the Summary and Recommendations based on my experience of this situation:

Flexibility & Resilience is the Key-to-Success in this situation, so other than imposing so many new changes if we let people plan their work schedule as per their ease and comfort making a balance between Office and home schedule then more than half of the things are done. One thing I always experience is that people are mature enough and always have a sense of responsibility, it’s just the state of mind which should be aligned if it is distracted and as a ScrumMaster, I or anyone should observe and sense it timely to get aligned back again towards the agile mindset.

Ultimately as a ScrumMaster, If I am able to align my Team’s mindset towards cultivating Agility in Individual habits then my job is done and the rest and next would be the automatic outcome because

Agile is a philosophy with a set of values and principles

Also as Agile is an empirical process so the evolved form of Agile Manifesto #1 wherein the current world we are more dependent on tools and technology for interactions, it sounds better when we say:

“Individuals and Interactions Over   With Processes and Tools”.

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