Effective Scrum Communication Practices in a Dispersed Work Environment

Scrum was imagined to be integrated into teams that work closely with one another. In fact, according to the Agile Manifesto, “the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” But, with the pandemic taking hold, most companies are on strict ‘stay at home’ orders, leaving companies wondering how Scrum will work in a dispersed environment. 

Keeping in mind the strongest attributes associated with the Scrum framework, the key to effective Scrum in a dispersed work environment relies heavily on the team’s ability to interact and communicate digitally. 

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Here are some ways you can optimize your communication and Scrum practices: 

Utilize Webcams

One struggle that many employees face when moving to a remote work environment is a lack of engagement. Many companies have turned to phone/Zoom calls to sync up on Sprint progress. That said, the issue still stands, how do you get your team to engage and focus in an environment with many distractions. 

One actionable thing you can do to try and engage more with your teammates is to utilize the video conferencing functionality of Zoom and other alternatives such as Whiteboard or Google Hangouts. By making sure everybody’s camera is on, you can ideally foster an inclusive environment where everyone is participating. Focus is a core Scrum value and using your camera helps to improve just that. Moreover, messages can often be misunderstood with lower bandwidth communication. Lack of facial expressions can result in slower communication with someone, and you may ask for clarification more often. Sadly in many corporations, it has become a cultural norm to join a video call and keep the camera off. Try setting the standard that this is the norm in order to improve the quality of communication.

These consistent meetings are essential to the success of Scrum within an organization and an actively engaged team is an integral piece. For example, during Sprint Planning, Backlog Refinement, or even Daily Scrum events if potential impediments aren’t brought up, there is a guaranteed delay in progress toward the Sprint goal. With video calls, you can actively engage everybody ensuring everyone has an opportunity to voice needs and concerns.

Consider a Remote Retrospective Tool

The Sprint Retrospective, or meeting to create a plan for improvements in future sprints, requires a lot of openness from the team. That is why it can be one of the most challenging Scrum events to hold remotely. To combat this, companies have developed software tools to help the process. Here are some good examples to get you started:

  • Team Retro – Team Retro offers a simple interface that is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate. It offers a variety of options for retro meetings including innovative sticky notes and voting options.
  • Azure DevOps – Azure DevOps is a suite of Azure Boards, Pipelines, Repos, Test Plans, and Artifacts. DevOps can integrate with many providers to complement existing established toolsets.
  • Reetro – Reetro makes it easy for Scrum Masters to prepare for the retrospective meeting, ask for feedback, track action items, engage unmotivated team members, manage unplanned activities, and avoid distractions.

Encourage Scrum Team To Stay Sharp

Considering the current state of things, many employees have found themselves working from home with some extra time on their hands. Encourage all members of your Scrum team to utilize this opportunity by pursuing continuing education programs or keeping informed on new complementary practices Scrum teams are experimenting with. 

Here are some options to increase your team’s Scrum knowledge:

Rely on Responsive Advisors for Help

Working on a dispersed scrum team can be challenging as scrum relies heavily on in-person collaborations and brainstorming. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared by being fully educated in Scrum and agile training best practices. This allows you to easily transition to a dispersed team if needed. 

Luckily, Responsive Advisors offers online training courses to help you and your Scrum team stay up-to-speed with the best practices. Our team of experts can help you incorporate and optimize the Scrum framework regardless of your team’s current working environment.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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