So, your Scrum team is now virtual, possibly not by choice. Does this mean that you won’t be able to maintain the discipline that you have spent so much time and effort to instill upon your team? Absolutely not! Working in a virtual environment can be very challenging, especially for teams that are not prepared to do so. Even though the Agile Manifesto says that we should value people and interactions more than processes and tools, sometimes we need to leverage tools creatively to sustain effective interactions.
In my opinion, the most challenging Scrum event to execute effectively in a virtual setting is the Retrospective. This is because that most teams use an interactive medium within a shared workspace to motivate healthy conversations. In a virtual environment, the use of physical Post-it notes is no longer an option. However, we must not throw in the towel just yet, for that there is still hope!
So, how do we run an effective Retrospective, arguably, the most difficult Scrum activity to execute well?
#1 – Maintain Your Discipline
Do not automatically give up on the Retrospective just because it is “too hard” or that the team does not see value in it. Stay the course and keep trying new ways to learn. Build on successes and make incremental improvements where possible, no matter how small they may seem.
#2 – Implement an Effective Collaboration Tool (Ideally with Video Capability)
Being remote and distribute makes everything harder to do. Having a sense of comradery is very challenging without being able to feel a connection to your team. Therefore, having video conferencing capabilities will make a huge difference. Being able to see physical expressions adds a significant difference in the effectiveness of the communication.
#3 – Utilize a Virtual Whiteboard
Whether you can deploy webcams or not, your team will benefit greatly from a virtual collaboration tool that allows them to share their work within the same tool. Skype for Business has a whiteboard feature that allows annotations and drawings which I have leveraged previously; by creating visual templates using Microsoft PowerPoint, I was able to focus the team during the Retrospective and ask for valuable feedback in an effort to continue to improve our processes.
To conclude this short article, working with distributed Agile teams is no easy feat. Stay true to the framework and don’t skimp on the details, because your team needs the rigor more than ever to continue performing at their highest level!