Tips for a suddenly dispersed team

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Agile teams are about effective teamwork.

While classical agile models prefer co-located teams, many have evolved to handle distributed teams as well.

By adopting principles of fractal organizations, of replicating small, self-organizing teams and structures such as team-of-teams etc, many have internalized the principles to be effective.

But now, the pandemic gripping the world has made teams not only distributed, but more dispersed.

While dispersal – from the chemistry domain – makes the solution homogeneous – dispersal of teams causes disruption.

Individuals and teams now need to think of ways to become extremely fractal – and be cohesive.

Specific actions and priorities will depend on your context and the readiness of the team.

Still, a few tips from what I have observed in teams and being effective – that might be useful for you.

Do share what has worked for you and what has not.

Will add to the collective knowledge of the community.

Time planning:

  • Work out a time-slice schedule for every WFH member
  • Work out a roster for Homework responsibilities [cooking, cleaning, shopping, caring – for kids etc]
  • Include some ME time for every person
  • Include some HOME time when everyone at home will be together [meals, playtime]
  • Maximize the time saved by not commuting
  • Reschedule most daily routines to take advantage of early or late hours when it might be easier to get some quiet time

Home activities:

  • Make some ‘work’ space that is segregated from other heavy activity spaces at home
  • If required, set up temporary curtains
  • Explain to the children and other non-working family members the need for some quiet time
  • Have some board games that everyone can play
  • Make up new games or variants of popular games that can be played indoors
  • With trusted neighbors, explore options of rostering the kid-sitting responsibilities, while maintaining adequate healthy practices

Work activities:

  • Refine team working norms and team agreements
  • Have backup connectivity options and let the other person know the priority and hierarchy of fallback
  • Reduce the number of meetings needed
  • Reduce the duration of the meetings, to stay focused and get to actions quickly
  • Have a protocol for calling back, when calls drop [initiator or receiver to retry], so that you do not end up in getting busy tones at the other end
  • To sense call drops, keep acknowledging the other person [otherwise, one may keep on talking, even after dropping out of the call or after the other person drops off a call
  • Use video calls as much as possible, to ensure attention and participation
  • Ensure everyone on the call participates – ask questions or seek feedback by name
  • Have participants in a call also use a shared whiteboard or wiki to record notes, questions etc
  • Use async discussion threads [slack, Teams etc] for longer discussions
  • Update any common planning and tracking boards regularly, so everyone gets to see the current status
  • Schedule mini-retros every couple of days, to explore ways of improving the distributed WFH model that is most suitable for the team
What do you think?

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