Nothing is more inspiring and effective than a team sitting all around 1 big table and delivering the next sprint goal physically together.
However, with the reality of offshore or nearshore teams and since the work from home practices since covid, that has become a dream.
Some tools make it even more fun or effective than face-to-face and the product owners from ProductOwner.org would love to share some of their favorite tools that help them to be successful as product owner:
Retrium is great, but if you look out for a free alternative: Parabol. As a team you decide about how to gather your reflections. Like: what went good? What needs improvement? Or: Continue, Start doing, Stop Doing.
And then you start your session in which Parabol guides you through Retro’s in 4 steps:
- Reflect: Everyone can reflect anonymously for x minutes.
- Group: As a next step the scrum master goes through all reflections and together you group reflections that are same or similar.
- Vote: Everyone gets x votes (based on the number of reflections) and with those votes you make sure that you discuss in step 4 the most relevant reflections.
- Discuss: As a last step you note down the actions needed to continuously improve and you add that as an ‘improvement story’ to the next sprint.
Miro also has a very nice way to stick notes on a virtual whiteboard. There is a read made template for Retro’s. Miro is very flexifble and easy to use and to navigate in. Backside is that is does not give a lot of direction to the conversation, like Parabol does. Miro is good for retro’s if you already use it for other whiteboard sessions. If your teams already use Miro, it is easy stop in to also use it for Retrospectives. work miro.com
When accessing the amount of work of a story, traditionally all developers take their deck of planning cards with them. The idea is that everybody thinks about the right size of the story according to them and have a good discussion if there are differences in size. But how do you do that online, normally when an opinion leader puts his number in a chat, many weaker team members follow with the same effort. No discussion.
With Pointing Poker, everyone can pick their card and all cards will only be revealed after everyone sized. Only at that moment, everyone can see the size of the others. This leads to good conversations, better sizing and therefore higher predictability of how much a team can deliver. pointingpoker.com
If you use Atlassian toolset, you can try Scrum Poker for Jira. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, it also dynamically shows Developers stories which were previously scored with the same number of Story Points. For example: the team wants to pick Story Point 8 and they see that for already done PBI items, which now in comparison to currently scored ones seem to be less complex, were sized with a 5 SP. That might inspire some discussions and re-scoring sessions and in the end, result in the team picking the final score in a more accurate/relative way as it’s based on their previous experience. ScrumPoker
When gathering ideas, you don't want to continue to get the ideas of the most verbal and dominant participant. To also get inputs from more silent and less certain team members, I like the 1-2-4-all structure as explained on Liberating Structures to gather many ideas in a short time and focus on the best ideas. liberatingstructures.com
But you need quick and efficient access to smaller rooms for 2, 4 or more people. With MS-Teams the creation of breakout rooms is even easier than in real life. People can easily walk in and out of a breakout room during an innovation sessions. For chairmen of such sessions it is easy to keep control, direct people to the right rooms and back to the main meeting. microsoft.com/teams
Simulating a regular office environment
Working with remote teams or from home definitely comes with challenges in socialising and communication.
Discord is one of the tools we adapted during COVID as it allowed us to simulate the office where you can casually interact with people. Isolation and lack of social interactions are heavily experienced by people who did not work from home at all or did it occasionally before pandemic.
If you want to quickly reach someone, ask a question or just do your tasks and have company (our DevTeams do that), you do not have to plan a meeting or send a link for a call. Instead of exchanging multiple text messages to get to the point or waiting for an answer, you can simply join the Discord server and see all the channels with your coworkers. It is very good for boosting team spirit and sustaining good relations between people. Furthermore, we noticed that when people spend time/work together behaviours such as consulting solutions, ideas or asking for help or raising problems come naturally.
In a standup we should simply focus on what you did yesterday, what will you do today and what is preventing you from doing your work. It must be short and to the point or it will become a boring ceremony. A bot can make it more efficient, but not less boring. One thing to lighten up your daily standup is start with a comic. Any funny comic is good to start with a smile, but an agile comic can serve a 2nd objective: shine a funny light on agile misunderstandins. A nice source for that is Comic Agile. comicagile.net