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Moving Forward

Pivoting to Virtual

by Nathan Stanley

As everyone has noted, the past week was unlike any we have experienced across many facets of life. Our daily routines changed in a matter of days. How we shopped for food, how our kids continued their education, how we went to work – all changed. We had to adapt in real-time, adjusting to new situations and new environments, and as we received new information frequently, use new skills that we had not before.

One of our client’s teams that I work with is a perfect example of how we’re regularly adapting – they are doing the best they can with the information they have and continuing to inspect and adapt on a daily basis. To highlight that, below are a few observations about a seemingly normal screenshot of one of the team’s videoconferences last week. To me, this screenshot represents adaptability, resourcefulness, and a tremendous amount of “we got this”.

1. Sprint 33 Review

The team had completed 32 Sprint Reviews, Retrospectives and Planning Sessions, all of them in-person and in a physical team workspace. To say they had built expectations and a routine for how agile ceremonies are conducted, would be an understatement. But halfway through Sprint 33, an announcement was made that the company was moving to an all remote workforce, which meant no in-person ceremonies. We worked to adapt their approach, coordinate with stakeholders and after a few hiccups, successfully held all three ceremonies virtually for the first time in 33 sprints.

2. Physical Task Board

In addition to in-person ceremonies, the team had also used a physical task board to track their work since they kicked off as a cross functional team. It was their record of truth and something they referenced multiple times a day. When they went remote, that meant they also lost their physical board. They were able to leverage the physical board one final time during Sprint Review but had to learn in real-time how to use their Jira board that at the time was incomplete. We helped bring the board up to date, establish guiding principles for use and adopt a new record of truth.

3. And finally, smiles

To me, this is the most important observation that can be made from this screenshot. Oftentimes in the face of newsworthy disruptions, we find comfort in the day-to-day routine of our workday. But in our current environment, that routine has also been disrupted. The way the team had worked together for the past 32 Sprints literally changed in a couple days. It was inspiring and comforting to see the team assess the situation, take control of what they could and adapt to a new way of working with a positive attitude and the sense of accomplishment that comes with tackling a new challenge.

Nobody was ready for what happened last week, and there was no real way to prepare for such a drastic change, but this team did have certain advantages working in its favor. They were used to working through a change in priorities on a weekly basis, so they were able to leverage that sense of flexibility on a much larger scale. They are always willing to learn and apply those learnings to improve the way they work together. And finally, they have built a strong level of trust among each other, which is something they can rely on in a time of uncertain change.