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Blog

Can You Do Scrum Remotely?

23 Apr 2020

Scrum methodology wasn’t designed for teams in remote environments.

Its creators envisioned small, tightly-nit teams collaborating in close vicinity. Remote work conditions actually put unique challenges before Agile practitioners.   

Alas, the global pandemic has turned business as usual on its head (the article was published in April, 2020). It forces us to think creatively, revise our practices, and be more resourceful than before. This doesn’t come easy or naturally to many people. 

So, the million-dollar question is whether we can make Scrum work in spite of disruption. 

The short answer is sort of yes and this guide will elaborate it in more detail. 

It will also suggest what to do when face-to-face interactions and collocation aren’t an option. 

Structure In Spite of Disarray 

The Scrum Guide doesn’t explicitly denounce or favor remote work. On the other hand, the Agile Manifesto gives a special place to real conversations. Yet, this mode of interaction isn’t stated as the only option. 

The bottom line is that the Scrum framework is very flexible and has various self-regulating mechanisms. One of its fundamental principles is high adaptability in the face of constant change. Remote work is exactly that— a tough challenge that accompanies change, certainly not an insurmountable obstacle. 

So, the first step is to assess the extent, nature, and type of changes you’re dealing with. This investigative enables you to apply proper remedies. 

Here, we wouldn’t recommend trying to simply copy known Agile techniques to the remote environment. You need to go the extra mile and emulate them with new solutions and tools that fit remote workflow requirements.

Everyone is On the Same Page 

In the spirit of Agile transparency, start the endeavor by having an open conversation with everyone onboard. 

Explain the importance of forging a new mindset. Highlight the values everyone needs to uphold in the following period. Scrum values will come in handy here. 

Next off, create room for sharing information and actionable feedback. Checking in with the team regularly is more crucial than ever before and the key to nurturing trust. 

Moving on, revamp communication channels and do away with information silos. Due to social distance, you have to adopt digital means of communication in place of on-site meetings.   

For the purpose of taking events like Daily Scrum meetings online, consider options such as:

There’s a wealth of tools that allow us to collaborate remotely. Your job is to shop around for the solution that suits your specific business needs. 

Remember that all great tools share certain qualities. They are accessible to everyone and involve a minimal learning curve. What is more, they allow team members to easily edit and manage workflow items. 

Also, feel free to introduce one more informal and laid-back channel. For instance, a group chat can serve as a place for “watercooler-like” interactions. 

Refining the Processes 

Once you select the tools, organize your virtual space.

Let team members offer their thoughts and suggestions. Flesh out and write down more meta-information on your product than usual. Set some extra rules regarding roles and output expectations to guide teams in development. 

Servant-leaders like Scrum Master may need to take on extra facilitating duties here. They could, for example, take part in events they typically don’t attend.

What is more, it’s their task to address impediments and maximize the transparency of Scrum Artifacts. The focus should be on Sprint Backlog, Product Backlog, and Increments. This heightened-visibility approach tends to cover blind spots and remove impediments. 

Furthermore, you want to define the meeting flow, specifying the meeting goals and attendance requirements. When it comes to the development workflow, try to visualize it better. You can also provide more guidance using standard Definition of Done, Definition of Ready, and Release Plans

All Hands on Deck

We know this is a lot to handle and the first steps can be very difficult. 

But, over time, and with the involvement of all stakeholders, you should be able to build new habits incrementally and put together a functional remote setup. Small steps add up and produce great synergy, warding off anxieties and headaches. 

So, if you mean business, take your project management game to the next level. Keep an open mind and stay in tune with new insights and patterns that emerge from Sprints. Investigate and discuss them during Sprint Retrospectives. 

Encourage teams to embrace responsibility, practice self-reliance, and take ownership of the work. It’s imperative to preserve their self-organizing capacities and promote the utmost level of accountability. That way, you make sure project red flags and impediments don’t fly under the radar, which can happen in remote settings.

All in all, well-informed transformation will empower your organization to not only survive but also thrive amidst doom and gloom surrounding you. It’s time to deliver Sprint goals in set timeframes and enhance the value of the product. 

Time to Shape Up or Ship Out 

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc and causing economic devastation across the globe. 

Instead of shutting down your operations, you ought to change your mindset and tactics. Recognize remote work as just one challenge to your organizational adaptability. 

Thus, find ways to smoothly translate activities and processes to the remote environment. Develop a shared understanding of what needs to be done and rework your communication systems. Power up your old tools and artifacts with digital solutions.   

The ultimate goal is to minimize adverse effects and make the most of newfangled opportunities that arise.