This week, Dan Neumann is joined by six collaborators to this very special episode in which the third anniversary of the Agile Coaches’ Corner is being celebrated.
In this episode, Ola Tunde, Steve Sladoje, Adam Ulery, Erica Menendez, Andrea Floyd, and Quincy Jordan are sharing their experiences during this last year, they talk about the challenges and discoveries of working remotely, and how the future looks like now that we all find ourselves living a “new normal” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Special thanks and appreciation to all listeners and collaborators who have been following and allowing the Agile Coaches’ Corner to turn three years of age.
- Thoughts about remote working:
- We lived in a virtual world that is now turning hybrid
- Sometimes pivoting and changing can be challenging, but the faster you adapt to the changes, the better
- There is no replacement for in-person interactions, but seeing people on camera is better than just voice
- Is the remote nature impeding agility principles?
- Face-to-face interaction also includes video
- You can still be engaged with customers and stakeholders by being visible and present, they need to know that your productivity hasn’t declined
- What does trust look like in a remote work situation?
- Being trusted in remote working is directly related to how you manage expectations
- To promote trust, increase communication and make sure that your calendar matches it too
- Forge relationships with people
- Trust is an essential foundation for enabling teams to be self-organizing and self-managing
- The Agile Manifesto states that the most effective communications are the ones that happen face-to-face, how has this changed in our current reality?
- Nothing beats the richness of communicating face-to-face, but effective communication can be achieved if we are flexible
- There is a need to relook at ways of successful communication, we need to use preexisting enablers and get more creative
- How have videos helped to enable better communication?
- Not everyone can use video and still effective communication can be reached
- The constant use of screens can challenge our abilities to stay focused and really be present
- Finding the right place to work remotely can be a challenge
- Everyone should have their own designated space to work
- Where can things go from here? Are we going back to the “traditional” collaboration tools?
- The technology that was developed and put into practice during the pandemic can be incorporated into the work back at the office
- How can leadership embrace the “new normal”?
- We should not hurry into going back to the office since there are plenty of advantages in remote working: Communication, collaboration, and effectiveness are reached without the costs, risks, and expenses of working from the office
Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]
Intro: [00:03] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. I’m your host, Dan Neumann, really excited to have you joining today. Today marks a milestone for the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. This is episode number 156, so 52 weeks in a year that makes this our third anniversary episode. So I’m really excited to have that. I want to express gratitude to you, the listener, and really appreciate you for not only the downloads, which give us some indication of providing value. I also want to thank the folks that reached out to us with questions or comments of appreciation. That really means a lot. So thank you very much for that. Looking forward to the fourth year of the podcast. I don’t know that when we were kicking this off three years ago, that I would have really thought too much about still doing this three years into the future. So thanks a bunch.
Dan Neumann: [01:15] A little bit more gratitude. I want to thank all the folks who have been collaborators. We’ve had collaborators both inside AgileThought as well as guests from outside of agile thought. So not only looking to bring you AgileThought experience and thought leadership, but hoping to connect you to other experts from outside of the virtual walls of AgileThought behind the scenes. I want to thank the marketing team, especially Madison Erhardt. She’s been very helpful with things like getting the show notes produced and published and, uh, taking care of website things and just being a really great partner in making sure the content is of high quality, as well as the podfly team, who does the audio editing and, uh, that preparation of the show notes as well.
Dan Neumann: [02:02] I’d be remiss not to thank Sam Falco. Sam was instrumental in not only getting the podcast started, but as you know, he was a partner of, of many, many episodes. I haven’t gone back to count those and not only a partner in what you folks heard during the podcast, Sam was also a partner and a partner in crime with, uh, some of the things that did not make the final cut. So it was really great working with Sam. Uh, he has moved on his, his season at AgileThought is over and he’s off in the world doing other things, but still contributing. I know I’ve seen a blog post from him on the scrum.org website. And so, um, really thought highly of the collaboration, Sam, if you’re still listening, if you haven’t, thanks a ton, man, Miss ya. And, um, we’re going to move on with, with other partners. So again, thanks to Sam, really appreciate the partnership. This episode’s a little different. A lot of times I’m joined by a guest or two, and we talk about things in kind of a conversational thread. For this episode actually had six collaborators and I’m going to be sharing the content that they helped create.
Dan Neumann: [03:14] So because this is a milestone, the third anniversary for us, I wanted to go back and really ask people about the last year. So my collaborators in this episode are Ola Tunde, Steve Sladoje, Adam Ulery, Erica Menendez, Andrea Floyd, and Quincy Jordan. And at least one of those names is new. So super excited to have new people contributing even in year three. And we’ll look forward to even more from additional AgileThinkers here as we go forward into year four. So in the spirit of looking back over the last year, I started by asking, you know, we really like continuous learning. And I was curious what my colleagues had learned over the past year. Not surprisingly, a lot of it had to do with working remotely. Erica leads us off.
Erica Menendez: [04:05] Oh gosh. And you know, it’s definitely been a year of learning in terms of everything’s been constantly different than we normally expected them to be. Um, you can’t just go and say, well, in the past, this is always what’s worked because you can say that and then realize that we’re in a completely virtual world. That’s kind of turning hybrid now, too. So trying to work on that hybrid model, um, has been very interesting.
Dan Neumann: [04:30] So Andrea and Adam, what have you folks learned?
Andrea Floyd: [04:33] Well so much, but I think when I think about the pandemic and the biggest lesson was really how quickly those businesses and people were able to pivot, you know, having had the pleasure of working with a variety of clients and individuals on agile journeys. I know that making a transformation in shifting the way you work sometimes can be challenging and the roadway to achieving it can be long. So it was so surprising and encouraging to see, wow, how wonderfully quick people were able to get creative and innovative and experiment, uh, with working from home, working in a remote way. So that was really refreshing to see when push came to shove, we can do it.
Adam Ulery: [05:23] Something that I’ve learned is that remote working is here to stay modern technology makes it possible to do this indefinitely. I think, and I, you know, I don’t think there’s any replacement for in-person interaction, uh, but seeing people on camera is better than voice. And it does suffice enough for organizations to consider doing that long-term. I think it is a new alternative. So that’s, I think that’s one thing I’ve is how to work that way and to kind of accept that this is a new mode of working.
Dan Neumann: [06:03] Quincy, do you see the remote nature impeding agility principles in any way?
Quincy Jordan: [06:09] So when I look at, you know, over the past year, the things that I’ve learned, you know, I would say probably that many of the things that I actually, uh, battled with some on LinkedIn years ago has proven itself to be true, which is that agile teams can be effective remotely, uh, that face-to-face communications does not necessarily mean that you have to be in person. Uh face-to-face and in my opinion, back then, and, and even more so now, uh, also includes video, you know, as we’re doing this podcast, now we can see one another. I can see the head nods and, you know, those things are very helpful.
Dan Neumann: [06:57] Of course, working remotely means you cannot see people all the time. It can be hard to know when somebody is actually doing work to contribute, moving everybody toward the overall team goal. Prior to the pandemic as consultants, we were often spending time on site with the clients we were there, we were in person. It was highly visible. Tunde, what have you learned about the change in working remotely?
Ola Tunde: [07:21] Um, what I’ve learned over the last year, um, you know, dealing with a global pandemic, um, from a agile perspective, I mean, I say consultant, I’m used to traveling and, uh, I’m used to engaging a client face-to-face even the frameworks that we use. We use their face to face. Now it’s stretched me personally, um, to be able to still be engaged with the customer and the stakeholders, you know, from a virtual perspective and, um, you know, being present, being available, um, being visible without, um, being fake, you know, kind of face-to-face physically is what I’ve been doing. Um, it caused, uh, for me, mental shift, psychological, um, safety to kind of shift towards, okay. They gotta trust me knowing that I’m working and my productivity cannot decline. So those are the changes that happened.
Dan Neumann: [08:21] And of course, trust isn’t something that’s just freely given. Trust needs to be earned and it needs to be maintained over time. And as trust is foundational to effective working relationships, Tunde, what observations do you have about trust in a remote work situation?
Ola Tunde: [08:41] Good question. So getting trust, um, working remotely is the ability to manage expectations. Um, meaning that, um, I do not allow my customers or clients, including leadership, my leadership. So manage me. Um, I manage expectation if I know the expectation of my leadership, I’m always doing check-in feedback to make sure I say, Hey, the last time we talked, you said this, this is what I’ve done since then. How does it look? How does it feel? What kind of result do you see? Mr. Customer? How do you, what do you see with a team? Uh, what else do you think I can do better? How can I better serve your organizations? And when you manage expectations, what I’ve seen is that customers begin to trust you more. You become not a consultant leadership begins to trust you more. You become not a consultant, but a trusted advisor.
Dan Neumann: [09:40] Erica, what would you add on the topic of fostering trust?
Erica Menendez: [09:45] Lots of communication. Um, as much as I said, you know, we’re having to force communication a little bit more now. Um, we also have to communicate more when we’re doing stuff like this. For example, you just gave yours. I was out this morning, doing something for anyone that’s on video. You can see I’m kind of in an airport. So communicating with the team and saying, this is what’s going on. This is when I’ll be there. Um, cause there are some meetings that I have to attend this afternoon and I have time cause I’m just sitting here. Um, but just really, really increasing that communication and making sure that your calendar matches it to actually, um, if I need to step out, you understand that I stepped out, but if someone pings me while I’m out, cause it goes to my phone work-life balance problems, letting them know, Hey, I can meet with you in 20 minutes or we can have a chat while I’m walking just like I’m on the phone.
Dan Neumann: [10:36] In addition to communicating expectations. And follow-up Steve had some perspective to share on back channel communication.
Steve Sladoje: [10:45] All right. So you do have to still really forge relationships with people. You have to find out and do that. So there’s times and that again, that’s a time and connection thing, which will will be who do you want to invest that extra time to be connected to. You find your main allies or your main people you want to be connected to. And you, you back channel conversations as much as possible. One thing that really does forge good relationships is there’s the Zoom and there’s the Teams back channel conversation with that person. And you are talking in a way that, you know, that’s actually, it’s a way to actually have a second conversation. That’s not, I’m interrupting someone by whispering over the side. I can do that. Um, and you do forge relationships and they can be, it can be helpful. It’s the way you have to do it. Somehow you have to forge the relationships in the absence of being in the same place as people. Um, so that’s a big deal. It’s a big, it’s a big thing. Relationships, you know, my job has always been about the relationships, less about all the processes and all the tools and all the, the exercises and much more about the relationships and saying, let’s, let’s look each other in the eye or let’s go talk to a third person I’m with you. Let’s go, let’s go make something happen. And people get jazzed over you saying, let’s go figure out something with us, come on. Um, and you storm off and go raid the castle together and people form bonds and relationships that way. Now it’s done entirely through follow-ups and inside channel conversations.
Dan Neumann: [12:15] Andrea, how do you see trust enabling organizations?
Andrea Floyd: [12:19] I was observing my clients and I was thinking back on the agile teams and organizations I’ve been working with throughout this pandemic. And I believe the one that resonated with me the most again, was around how important trust is. And that trust is an essential foundation for enabling teams to be self-organizing and self-managing. And that was the journey that I saw some of my clients struggling with. And in the pandemic when you had all this remote remote work happening, uh, it was really, uh, helping them to understand how they could shift some of their expectations and observations around trusting and building that trust so that they felt more comfortable, empowering, and allowing teams to self manage and self organize.
Dan Neumann: [13:18] Of course the agile manifesto has a principle that the most effective way to communicate is face-to-face which back in the day really meant being in the same room. So let’s explore this in our current reality.
Adam Ulery: [13:31] One prior belief about agile that got challenged is the face-to-face interaction. Now I wouldn’t say that that changed my belief, although for a period of time, I did grapple with that and was considering if I was changing my opinion, but having continued to work through it more and stay in this mode of remote work, it’s actually reinforced that face-to-face interaction is the best choice if it’s possible. Now I see it’s, it’s workable if that’s not possible, but uh, nothing beats the richness of being in person, but that was challenged certainly in the short term.
Dan Neumann: [14:38] Andrea, what have you seen in terms of adjustments?
Andrea Floyd: [14:42] In terms of an adjustment? I, I really went back to the agile principles and I was reading through them and thinking how those principles shift or did they shift as we went through the pandemic and how I’m working with my clients. Uh, and one that’s called out to me in terms of an adjustment for me, as well as reinforcing with clients was around the principle six, which is the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. And that was, you know, we talk about in-person collaboration and the ideal for teams is to be in a common location. Well, we know even in today, regardless of the pandemic or not having co-located teams is sometimes challenging. So some organizations were used to accommodating that, but there was this, how can we build that collaboration? How can we build that connection? And it was really looking at ways of doing that and being successful with enablers that we had it at our hands, some of the tools that we had been using previously getting more creative. I know I became a, uh, pseudo expert at, uh, online collaboration tools, such as Mural or Miro. Uh, and I love it. And even as we come out of the pandemic, I believe I’ll continue to incorporate those tools in how I connect and collaborate with people. So I think looking back at the principals, that was definitely one. And then in addition is looking at the manifesto and where we say, you know, we’re, we value individuals and interactions over processes and tools. How helpful tools could be. So again, always reinforcing that tools are that enabler and they should be there to help promote the outcomes we’re seeking.
Dan Neumann: [16:44] I know video can definitely be a hot topic. What are your reflections on video, which I know I tend to advocate for Erica?
Erica Menendez: [16:52] Videos are a very interesting thing. I know in the beginning of the pandemic, we were all video video, video video. And even before that, we were all video. I remember being on hybrid meetings, um, that I would kind of run and you would have people 50% on video and 50% not. And it worked out very well. It was like, we were all in the same room, but now people are kind of videoed out unless you’re in a really good group of people, but being okay with that and still working with people in other ways to, to really understand what’s going on and not always have that physical cue, um, because you can’t always have it. And you have to understand that sometimes people can’t do video as much as we wish they could. I think that’s been kind of the most interesting thing about it.
Dan Neumann: [17:37] And of course, in order to use video, we have to deal with the constant presence of screens. And that can be a challenge to maintain, focus and be present. Right. Steve, do you see people lose focus?
Steve Sladoje: [17:49] It happened because it’s just, you know, there you are alone in your world and the entire, um, everything competes for your attention versus face to face. Like I said, face to face you and me, we’re there it’s you and me. And we’re not, we’re not you say back in your office, we worked in that gigantic open space at that big program. No one really had an office. So I’d go sit next to you. I’d grab a chair and roll it right next to your seat. And we talk about something or I’d say, you know, let’s go over here and stand by the glass and look out the big window and talk about stuff. So yeah, it’s different because now it’s video screens or, uh, laggy, computer, connections. So, you know, I have 4, 5, computer screens in front of me right now, which is not that’s three PCs and two extra monitors. It’s, it’s probably too much, not probably too much. It’s by definition too much. It’s not even, there’s no argument.
Dan Neumann: [18:43] In addition to the challenge of screens, there can also be a challenge of finding the right place. What are your thoughts on that Quincy?
Quincy Jordan: [18:51] So it was important for everyone to have their own designated space, uh, as much as possible. Um, our son, he, even though they’ve gone back to school, they still have some virtual days sometimes. Uh, but we actually have to set up a complete office for him. Um, so, you know, he literally had his own office separate from his bedroom so that when he’s in school, it’s not the same feeling as being in your bed, which took some adjustment because he, he couldn’t understand like why can’t I be on my laptop in my bed? Like, no, because you have to have your video on that’s going to be a problem. So now let’s not do that. Uh, but yeah, it was an adjustment. And I think that it’s also a good learning experience. It was a good learning experience because it gave us time to do some things that were difficult to do before as well. You know, we couldn’t go for walks, uh, as much before, uh, things. It was just some availability that was difficult to come by before.
Dan Neumann: [19:58] So here we are now with our third year of podcasting happening completely in the pandemic. So where can things go from here, Quincy, as we return to the office, do you see us going back to the quote, traditional collaboration tools of post-its and Sharpies?
Quincy Jordan: [20:14] Yes. So, and I have LinkedIn post about this. I was still, I am a big proponent of sticky notes and Sharpies, like those were my weapons of choice against a resistance to agile transformation. And, uh, but products like Miro mural, you know, some others, uh, I kind of lean towards Miro, but you know, those things have made a really big difference, even so much so that I do believe that if I were onsite, I would pull up Miro and we would have Miro up and we would use it similar in the way that we do when we’re remote, uh, and maybe not use the stickies, you know? Um, I do still think there is something to like what happens in the brain when you physically get up, move around, walk up to the board, uh, point to things, but then there’s, there are other things that occur when you use Miro that don’t occur during that time. So, you know, there’s some give and takes some pros and cons, but that was definitely one that I was pretty strong about using stickies and Sharpies. And again, still am, but I am totally convinced and see that there are other ways and you can use the technology that is very beneficial as well.
Dan Neumann: [21:48] Adam, what are your reflections on where we are from a change standpoint?
Adam Ulery: [21:53] Well, I mean, I think overall it’s just that the way we’re working and it goes beyond work, I will probably won’t dive into that, but just things have changed. Life has changed. Things are different and, and it’s permanent. I don’t think it’s when we first went into the pandemic. A lot of us were thinking it’ll pass and then we’ll go back to normal. And now I’ve realized this is the new normal. We have to learn how to adapt to this new way of living.
Dan Neumann: [22:28] We absolutely need to adapt to what happens around us, not only at the team level, but also how leadership can embrace our current state, which challenges traditional notions of needing to be in the office to get work done.
Ola Tunde: [22:41] Yes. Um, I want to speak to a leadership out there. Um, COVID has showed us that we can be productive without being in a brick and mortar office, large organizations, such as Microsoft. Um, um, Wal-Mart’s totally, you know, they’re closing down offices because they see that productivity continue to increase performance. Is there delivery? Is there, um, when the everything opens back up please rethink, why do we need to go to the office when we don’t go, you save money on rent or mortgages of offices. Um, you know, even if somebody have COVID you prevent it from spreading, you know, let’s not mandate so quick for everyone to go back in the office because what is the purpose? And performance is there. Collaboration is there. So many more tools. And the stretch us agile is change management artists to be able to deliver outside the box. So that’s my final statement.
Dan Neumann: [23:53] Thank you. So, Andrea, what good advice might you offer as an agile is looking back over the last year?
Andrea Floyd: [24:01] My closing thought would be around really doing a retrospective. I think that’s what first came to mind is you asked me the question, take that moment to reflect. There are learning that happens through this last year that you’re going to want to continue. Um, and those things that you might want to pivot or change or stop. So taking an opportunity to reflect and learn.
Dan Neumann: [24:27] So Erica, as you retrospect, what do you notice?
Erica Menendez: [24:30] Do you know, as much as I think people say it’s been a long year, I think it’s actually been kind of a great year and it’s brought us a lot further forward, a lot quicker than we expected. And I, I think 2020 pushed us, but 2021 proved that we can do it long-term because 2020 everyone said when 2020 is over, it’s kind of going to go away in 2021 proves that that’s not really what happened. We kind of learned how to live, not with it, but live that lifestyle. Um, and it’s going to continue going forward.
Dan Neumann: [25:01] Well, there, we have it three years of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast are now behind us. And I want to, again, thank you the listener. Remember you can always contact me with feedback or questions. I’d love to hear from listeners and really appreciate all of you. Thank you again for listening. Thank you to all the collaborators here. And I look forward to catching you in episode number 157 in year number four.
Outro: [25:28] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.