It’s been strange times outside with the COVID-19 pandemic. People have been challenged to find new ways to work, from home this time. This can be news to a lot of sectors, but not as much in the IT business.

Cloudoki’s team rapidly adapted to the new routine, working remotely was not a novelty to us since we’ve been dealing with international clients and projects in a daily basis for years. Also thanks to our long implemented culture of Home Office, everyone was used to the work from home habits and best practices.

But what about the Agile culture, the one that values colaboration and is based on the sinergy of people working alongside? How to maintain Agile’s principles with people apart? There’s a statement on the Manifest of Agile, that says: “Responding to change over following a plan” and it sounds like a good starting point.

In the office there was always a big part of the team on the glass room for the daily meetings. There was always somebody around to assist, just a couple steps away. Now even though the work routine and habits didn’t change as much, now with every single one working remotely the daily work’s atmosphere is different and it can affect the team. My role, as a Scrum Master, is to maintain the team’s integration, making sure we can keep the growing performance we’ve been aiming for. The current situation made it a challenge and I felt excited rather than intimidated by it, now it’s time to be creative and innovative and it’s thrilling!

Taking advantage of our already in use remote communication softwares (message exchanging and video conference) and taking into account the another statement of the Agile Manifesto: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”; these are the measures I’ve been taking:

- Clear communication: Text messages aren’t the ideal form of communicating. It’s fast but flawed and can easily be misinterpreted. So I’m investing a lot of time on voice conferences. They are easier to join/pick up and get the message delivered. Having everyone involved on subject on the same call is the key. That’ll keep everyone on the same page.

- Leadership availability: The team must know even if I’m not physically there, they can rely on me for the problem solving and that I’m just one ping way. “Reach me if you need ANYTHING” that’s my go to phrase, can’t stress that enough. I try to answer them as quick as I can and resort to audio or video calls whenever it’s needed.

- Individual attention: I make an effort to reach every single one of the team checking up how they’re doing, if they need any assistance, if they have clear understanding on the project and Sprint’s goals and priorities. I also make sure to ask about them as a person. Making sure they acknowledge they’re trusted and seem as people, not assets.

- Team video meetings: This is the biggest and most important interaction the team’ll have. I keep my camera opened as often as possible and always make sure to give everyone their chance to talk and express theirselves. To my surprise everyone is more talkative, which is an excellent sign, that means the team’s getting more mature and trusting. That’s resulting in longer Retrospective meetings, for instance, but also a fully aligned team. The Agile ceremonials are timeboxed and can have a restricted agenda, so it’s important to have other meetings where everyone can see each other and interact. In Cloudoki we’ve been hosting Staff Meetings and Virtual Happy Hours and the results are amazing. Don’t be fooled, video conferences are a lot of work, there will certainly be connection issues, sound feedback interference, kids and animals appearances every now and then, but trust me, it’s worth a shot!

- Break the ice: I’ve got to remind that the fun is still good part of the core of this company, so whenever possible I’d break the protocols, be silly or tell an infamous joke. The world is facing difficult times, being well tempered on a morning meeting can change someone’s day. Never underestimate the power of a smile!

Final thoughts: Cloudoki is doing just fine during this quarantine as a result of the right combination between trustful people, frequent reinforcement and encouragement on remote collaboration and belgium beer. Of course we miss the office and are looking forward to go back to having meetings in the glass room along with complaining about someone who chose a 10 mile away restaurant for the Friday lunch. But I dare to say that being apart brought us closer together.

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