Adam Mattis [Movement Starter] - Business Agility & Innovation
  • Adam Mattis

COVID-19 WFH: Maintaining the Social Network

As recently discussed on the The Jordan Harbinger Show podcast, we are always trading our problems for better problems.

Several years ago, we traded the problems of technology development for the problem of test automation, which we traded for the problem of release, which we traded for the problem of dynamic budgeting and emerging strategy. Each problem is just as real as the problem it replaced, but a better problem than the previous.

To contrast the current state of world affairs, namely the coronavirus (COVID-19), let us contrast the problems we had during the last global outbreak of H1N1 in 2009. From a business perspective, we are much better prepared to continue business operations than we were in 2009, but we’ve inherited the new problem of remaining Agile in the face of not just a distributed workforce but an entirely dispersed workforce.

Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately), this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered such a scenario and in this post, I’m sharing some lessons learned to hopefully make your learning curve a little flatter.

Empathy and Servant Leadership

In our (amazing) global economy, many of your teammates are likely experiencing or likely to experience isolation or quarantine at some point in the near future. Though it’s important that we still deliver in these circumstances, it’s also important to empathize with the added stress that we’re all experiencing. This is a time to exercise our humanness, servant-leadership skills, and sense of team. Not a time to revert back to the command, control, and status reporting associated with a previous way of working.

Don’t forget your token.

Before you trade your office for the home office, take a look around and make sure you have what you need to be successful.

As a team member

  • Security token

  • Charger

  • Keyboard and mouse

  • If not digitized, photos of team boards, Iteration goals, PI objectives, and Program board

As a Scrum Master

  • Sit with the team and revise team working agreements for an entirely remote work environment

  • Assure that each teammate has appropriate tool access (that one shared login for the entire team won’t cut it—how may you overcome that?)

  • Determine a communication and collaboration cadence: how can you best replicate the benefits of colocation and osmotic communication when the team members aren’t physically close to one another?

As an RTE

Work with the Architect(s), Product Manager(s), Scrum Masters, and Product Owners to develop working agreements for executing the PI:

Set up for success

Once you return from traveling, take a good look at your home workspace and determine if it’s ready to help you be your best. Though the kitchen counter or living room couch may work well enough for your usual WFH Wednesday, you’ll likely need a more thoughtful setup for a longer-term solution. Here are a few home-office considerations:

Find a quiet place. If you have children, it’s likely that they may also be home if the local schools have closed. We’ll all need to do our best to balance responsibilities as parents during a crisis with responsibilities to our teammates. Having a quiet space to do deep work, take conference calls, and collaborate will dramatically improve productivity.

Make your space comfortable. Consider the need to organize, attend video conferences, and do great work. Is your space suited for that? A clean desk in a well-lit environment is much better for productivity than a dark, cluttered basement. Here are some low-cost examples of how you can create your home office. Also, consider how a whiteboard may help (come on, who doesn’t want a whiteboard at home!?). Amazon has several affordable options that can be delivered right to your door.

Create a schedule and stick to it. An interesting phenomena of the WFH lifestyle is people’s tendency to sit down in the morning (earlier than they would typically start working) and not move until they’re done for the day (typically much later than they would end their workday). Considering your team working agreements, build a schedule (and possibly post it on your new whiteboard) to include a start time, break times, lunchtime, and end time. Take breaks to stand, stretch, go for a walk around the house, interact with your family, and generally try to maintain a sense of balance. I personally find the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt to be a great tool for structuring my day and holding myself accountable. Give it a look!

Conclusion: Maintaining the Social Network

As we come together as a global community in the face of this outbreak, let’s not forget what we are trying to accomplish through our new way of working: reestablishing the social network so that we can delight our customers with the right solutions at the right time.

Typically when faced with a significant challenge, we’re tempted to revert back to patterns that were comfortable the last time a similar challenge emerged.

Though we’re all facing a challenge that’s very new to us, please remember the mindset, values, and principles that we hold dear. You know what to do, you know why we do what we do, so let’s all embrace the challenge ahead of us and learn together as a community.

Please take care of yourself, your family, and your team. We’re all in this together!


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© 2020 by Adam Mattis .

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