Dealing with remote agile teams !!
Our company has gone remote since the start of the pandemic and will continue to be remote till early next year. Currently, I am facing the following issues with my teams. I coach two product dev teams right now.
1. One of my team has been struggling to increase their overall productivity. I have been working with them for over a year now and although things did improve, I personally feel the team is not improving as it should. The story points are hardly moving to done, issues keep spilling. I have tried adjusting the velocity, talking to the team members and I feel the issue is with :
a.I feel not every team member is doing their bit. Although from the outside it looks like a "full team" there is always someone missing (which is understandable) but I feel maybe some members are simply slacking off. This is probably causing some members to burn out, some members not being available and hence we cannot finish the committed work every sprint. How can I motivate the team to work equally and as a team? How can I help my team achieve an acceptable rate of productivity? My understanding is teams, as they mature should have a cumulative growth in their overall velocity. Could it be a leadership issue?
b. I feel this remote working is demotivating the overall team. How can I motivate them? How can I encourage the team to continue being self-empowered? They used to work better before the pandemic set it.
2. How can I motivate my team members to keep their webcams on? I mean we are all adults. I have already requested them, added it as an action item but still, everyone is unwilling to keep their cameras on. Given this, how can I help improve team rapport and communication?
Why do you think moving story points to Done and trying to adjust the team's velocity -- if such things were even possible -- have any bearing on productivity?
I personally feel the team is not improving as it should...I feel not every team member is doing their bit...
Does the team feels the same way ?
How can I help my team achieve an acceptable rate of productivity?
What is the "acceptable rate" of productivity ? Does the team knows about this measurement ?
there is always someone missing (which is understandable) ...and hence we cannot finish the committed work every sprint
Then does your team plans more than the available capacity for the sprint ?
Could it be a leadership issue?
What you think the leadership should do here ?
You can help the team to find themselves what is missing here for motivation. I think it should come from them.
I have this on my team now. This happened before the pandemic though. It's been accentuated by the work from home environment.
Maybe a couple things you can focus on:
- Retro's: Unless the devs are calling out other devs, status quo will remain. Until there is meaningful conversation about development dynamics, status quo will remain. The devs on the team must call out other devs for not carrying their weight and discuss why and how to get better.
- Calls/Meetings in Agile during Pandemic: Agile/Scrum tries to eliminate unnecessary calls for devs so they can focus on development work. During work from home, that just doesn't work for 90% of devs. Meetings now replace the "face-to-face" aspect of Agile. You don't need your cameras on but I had to increase the amount of meetings for the devs. For instance, we now have a stand up in the morning, the devs have a voluntary "Collaboration Time" for an hour each day for issues and synergy. And lastly, we have a 15 minute EOD: End of Day call. The devs give their updates for the day. It's not mandatory but it helps everyone be on the same page. Excessive? Yes. But the other devs weren't pulling their weight and this was necessary in a very crazy pandemic/work from home time.
- Mental Health: Anybody feel you're working harder than when you were in the office? I do. I am scared to do anything other than focus on work. In the office though, we had coffee breaks, walks around the office, lunches with coworkers, holiday events, company events, etc. Now? That's just another call. Maybe try and institute some non-work chat, a virtual happy hour, daily 30-60 second mind cleanses, etc. Don't forget to have nice, happy conversations and daily/weekly mental health reflection. I know it sounds cheesy but we all need to remember humans need human interaction.
Hope this helps!
I have some questions that might help you. Maybe others have some input on the answers as well as you.
Is there a common vision about the product you are building? Is the Product Owner or someone able to communicate the value regularly?
How is the team getting feedback/sense of achievement? Can they see the value they provide and the potential value yet to be fulfilled? What kind of metrics does your team use to improve, if any? Do you measure things like customer satisfaction, retention or adoption? Revenue growth/savings? Even the dullest feature or tiniest defect fix must help somebody, somehow.
How can you celebrate success in a virtual/distributed environment?
What are your video/phone calls like? Long, boring and one way or friendly, succinct, engaging? Do you use techniques like Lean Coffee or rely on monologues?
Could you have a 'retrospective' about the issues (isolation? poor performance?) and facilitate it so everybody gets heard and steps are discovered to move forward?
How is the team accountable? Is the team able to call out poor peer performance? How can accountability be a thing? (See the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team)
Can you get people to work together at least some of the time instead of on their own all of the time?
Can you inject some social hang out time - talk to each other but not about work? Would some online team building games be useful?
Can you foster time for personal development/learning new skills?
Just some suggestions from my POV:
1. I wouldn't want the webcam on either. Scrum talks about its values, but I don't need someone looking at me work.
2. Where is the PO in all of this? I think all story points and velocity are nice to show on a report, but how about the value of the team's work, and what does the PO have to say about it?
3. From what I read, my impression is that the team is heavily controlled and doesn't seem to be given enough wiggle room to take enough of the ownership of it's own problem. Have you tried having other team members resolve these issues you are having? Have you allowed other members to lead and coach the other members instead of yourself?