We find more and more people today are working remotely as companies become global and people are prioritising flexibility. So we thought we’d find out a bit more about this. We’ve had remote meetings which were painful, and we’ve also had ones that were hugely successful, enjoyable and engaging! We were interested to hear what others are doing: how and why they work remotely. So we ran a survey to get a better understanding of how people were doing agile remotely across the world. If you haven’t yet filled it in, please do so, we might update the report in the future if we get more data.
If you’ve never experienced a remote meeting that works feel free to join our Virtual Lean Coffee meetup to see how we run Lean Coffee with people from around the world. Or get in touch via and we will facilitate a remote workshop with your team for free.
We use ‘remote’ and ‘distributed’ to mean at least one member of your team is not sitting within 6 m of all other members. Here is an infographic of the survey results, or you can access it here: https://infogram.com/remote_team_survey_results.
Recently we attended the SUGSA Coaching Day where we presented a session on Coaching Tools. In preparation for this we did a silent brainstorm. When we say ‘tools’ we mean anything that can help you be a better coach. We quickly came up with 33 tools that we think help us be better coaches. We ran the session as an informal sit in a circle and pick a card, then we explained the card and for topics some ran a quick activity for participants to practice. There were some great conversations and debates – thank you everyone!
You can download these cards below. Perhaps print them out, and write your thoughts for each topic on the paper. Some of them are vague – so feel free to leave a comment for us to explain. If you are a coach – please let us know if there are any you would add.
Some tweets from the event:
“1 thing is a potential option, 2 is a dilemma, 3 is a choice – use powerful questions to open up choices”
“People vs. Objects – If you are going to coach people, you have to give trust continuously, over and over again”
“Work on yourself until you can see that ‘Problem’ person in your team as a person, because that person knows how you see them”
“”What’s the behavior you are modeling to your team?” If you want ppl to admit their mistakes,start admitting yours.”
“Being right versus the best outcome”
“Let’s stop talking about whether we’re Agile or not and start talking about what’s working and what’s not.”
This assessment is for you to take to see where you are on your journey to becoming an agile coach. Everyone is in a different place. We believe you are the best person to judge where you are right now, and where you want to be in a certain amount of time.
About The Assessment
We have broken the large topic of being an Agile Coach into 5 main areas. Each of these areas are split into 3 sub-areas which can contain a number of related topics. Below are the 5 main areas, and their sub-areas, as well as example topics in each area.
The topics below are just examples and by no means a definitive list, since the world of agile coaching is large. However, we expect that most topics should fit into one of the 5 areas we have chosen.
Work/Life Balance – time management, personal Kanban, productivity
Satisfaction – autonomy, mastery, purpose
Growth – networking, learning, community
Activities – posters, ball toss, feedback wall
Delivery – room setup, planning, size
Methods – Training from the back of the room, mentoring, lecture based
To assess your own level for each sub area we will be using Shu, Ha Ri in this assessment.
At the Shu level: you are learning the basics and just starting out. You might be going to training, reading or trying out some tools and techniques for the first time.
At the Ha level: you have actively practiced and used tools and techniques and are starting to discover how to use things together and blend ideas from various places.
At the Ri level: you are able to create new techniques and tools, and are largely led by your mind and heart. You are able to move beyond rules, but still align with the intended principles and values.
Step 1: Download the assessment sheet and print it out.
Step 2: For each sub area on the assessment sheet, draw a dot for where you feel you currently are. Once you are done, connect all the dots with a line in one colour (orange in the picture below). Also fill in today’s date at the top of the sheet.
Step 3: Now think about when you want to revisit this assessment. It could be in 2 weeks, 3 months or even 1 year from now. Fill in this date in the “Date to review”. Think about where you would like your skills to be on that review date, and draw new dots on the assessment sheet. Connect these dots with a different coloured pen (green in the picture below).
Step 4: Take a look at the areas with the biggest gap between where you currently are and where you would like to be. Pick between 1 and 3 items as your top priorities and label them in the Top 3 row. For a short duration (< 1 month), we recommend only selecting 1 area to focus on.
Step 5: For each of your priorities fill in an action plan for yourself in the blocks at the bottom. State what you want to achieve, how you plan to do it, and when you are going to do it. The more specific you are the more likely it will actually happen. Try not to plan on starting 3 things at the same time, rather spread them out.
Step 6: Now put this somewhere visible so that you will be reminded of your plan regularly.
Tech is changing all the time, and mostly, it’s getting better. Be sure to investigate tools regularly. We used to love Skype, but with many people it got clunky, then along came Google Hangouts. Awesome we can now see who is talking as their name is highlighted! And then along came Zoom, with features like muting, and switching off video and hangout rooms. I’m sure the next great tool is just waiting for us around the corner.
Tip 2: Working Agreements
Decide as a team what your remote meeting agreements are, that will help you meetings work better. Some we use often are:
Bottom Line – don’t give us the 10 minute version of your story, rather bottom line it and give us the 1 minute outcome that is important. At any point during a meeting anyone can say (or type) “bottom line” to help speed up conversation and get to the point.
Disaster plan – Decide what will happen if someone can’t connect. Or the site is down. Where do they look next? For example: Mostly we meet on Zoom. If you can’t get into Zoom for some reason (or we get cut off half way), then we communicate via our slack channel, and if that not working then we use email. This means everyone knows what to do in the event of a tech failure.
Talking Over – Decide what will happen if people talk over each other. Will you leave it to people to self organise, or should both people stop speaking and wait for the facilitator to ask each of them to speak.
Silence – Get comfortable with silence. Around a table you can see people are thinking and so silence is ok. On a voice only call this is more tricky, are they still there? Did they get cut off? It’s ok for the line to go dead for a bit. Thinking and silence is ok, but it takes getting used to.
Tip 3: Good voice trumps bad video
If on a call with video and voice someone is struggling with a poor connection, rather turn off video. This should allow that person to at least hear the conversation clearly. This is much better than having some video but sound cutting out or distorted.
Tip 4: Same experience for all
If even one person is dialing in, rather have everyone dial in. Otherwise everyone else has an in person experience with facial expressions and body language cues except for those dialing in. It’s almost as if you are having a conversation in another language. Rather have everyone dial in and have the same experience for everyone on the call – this will result in far better communication and collaboration.
Tip 5: Prepare
Most distributed meetings are prepared in that someone will dial someone in. That’s it. You still need to facilitate and prepare for the meeting. Make use of various tools, like whiteboarding or Trello or google draw or boardthing. How can you make the meeting more interactive? Schedule breaks every 50 minutes, tell everyone to get a coffee and join back in 5 minutes. Be creative!
If you have more tips to share – please leave them in the comments field below.
We are interested in learning more about teams that work remotely or distributed teams. What does that mean? In simple terms it means that at least 1 person on your team is not co-located. This could be something that always happens, or something that only happens some days of the week. it could affect only 1 or two people, or the whole team could work from home.
We need your help. We have a survey on remote work to try to learn more about how common this is, and how people experience it. We’d like as many people as possible to fill in the survey to help get a good sample of data. Please fill in the survey, and share this link widely.
The results will be published as a blog post once we have enough data.
Here’s the hardware we use currently use. As with tools – this changes overtime… what do you use?
Speakerphone: Perfect for conference calls which we both attend from the same location, but with remote clients. Works both as a USB speakerphone for your computer and a bluetooth speakerphone for our cell phones. Much clearer than the built in speakerphone on my iphone. We’d highly recommend this as a really cost effective good quality speakerphone. We use: www.mea.jabra.com/business/speakerphones/jabra-speak-series/jabra-speak-510
USB Headsets: These work great if we are apart and need to dial into a meeting, or only one of us is on a call. They are better than using the built in mic and speaker of our macbooks because typing noise isn’t picked up. You can go much higher end on headsets, but these work well enough for us. They don’t work if we are in the same room and on the same call though. Still looking for a headset solution for that (which is affordable). We use: https://www.plantronics.com/us/product/audio-628
Microphone for video recordings: We use this if we record video with sound for online courses, or something similar which people will watch asynchronously. It is great at filtering out background noise like cars driving past etc. Again a great product for it’s price range. We use: http://www.bluemic.com/products/yeti/
IPad Pro: We use our ipad pro to do remote sketch-noting and also as a better whiteboard tool via screen sharing. It doesn’t allow others to draw on it – but the handwriting is so clear and easy to read that everyone can easily follow. https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-ipad/ipad-pro