My story on how I provided and get support from my team and my community over COVID19 period
Life is, even now, sometimes a bit too full. Right before Covid19 my team and I kicked off a pretty complex new project at work where we committed to delivering by the end of April!
It was March when lock-down had commenced, and due to working remotely, the leadership team of my company and the customer were sure that there is no way we can deliver the project on time due to the wired situation. This project was a critical one to the company with an enormous value.
I, as a tech/team lead, was driving the technology and managing the team with new members in it. There were heaps of challenges at the beginning, but as a rule of thumb, flexibility and learning is the primary key to overcome problems.
Well, everyone raised the Red Flag Management on our project!
You wonder how did we get through all problems and managed to deliver on time?
First Problem: Our extreme programming impacted!
My team is quite strong, supportive and committed, and we follow the practices of extreme programming as much as it makes sense like pair programming, code review, collective ownership.
However, the lack of face to face communications interrupted all of them. We could not sit and get together anymore and discuss thing as we used to do in person.
How can we keep doing those practices to support each other and maintain the code quality?, I asked myself.
Solution: Improving the code review
We started spending more time on one another code review that it became a new fun way of learning from each other.
"This code review process makes me excited as it is a learning process for me", one of my new team members told me.
Github, Bitbucket and all code repositories are collaborative platforms to help the teams provide constructive feedback and understand one another thinking methodology and perspectives.
Solution: More virtual pair up
Collaborative platforms like Microsoft team, Webex, Zoom allow everyone to "share the desktop" with others as a group or individuals. Also, they provide some features like "request control" where you can drive other's computer and help them get their issues fixed.
It is a great feeling of having support when you are stuck in some issues!
It might be pretty obvious, but it is a matter of making it a culture inside the team, so everyone feels supported.
Second Problem :communications were not productive anymore
Our Agile scrum happens on a physical board plus we had a massive whiteboard in the office by a culture heavily relying on visualising thoughts and ideas, elaborating stories, drawing diagrams, flowcharts and architecture design.
Working remotely, we could not adequately and clearly explain our ideas to each other.
solution: Microsoft digital whiteboard and digital pen
I started using digital pens, along with collaboration tools which improved my meetings by using these technologies and elaborated my ideas in a better, comprehensive and more visualised way. Mainly I found it a fantastic help with non-technical people who love to see shapes and flows.
There is a wide range of accessories like Wacom, Microsoft Surface Pro and any tablet with a digital pen! Also, fantastic software like Microsoft Whiteboard, Microsoft OneNote, Miro, Excalidraw, JamBoard can be great assistants in visualising the ideas.
Here are some examples:
Third problem: Strengthening community ties through the COVID-19 crisis
It is challenging to engage the community, yourself and your team in this social distancing and restricted situation. My team rely on the sharing-knowledge sessions that we have called BrownBags, which was interrupted for a while.
All my catch-ups with my network and my interactions with the community were disturbed too.
Solution: Virtual BrownBags
While initially it was a bit weird for me and I wasn't sure whether BrownBags would be as successful as it used to, I kicked off my first virtual BrownBags.
I invited Basarat, the Microsoft MVP from Melbourne and he kindly accepted.
I realised that people like it quite a lot, it was even more informative and I could invite great speakers from all over the globe not holding restricted to Sydney!
The experience was excellent, although I missed the people interaction and energy of those sessions.
Solution: Supporting virtual rehearsals
Some people from the community reached out to me to see where am I and how am I doing? It was delightful and heart-warming that people care about you! So I did the same in different ways like supporting speakers rehearsal in the community.
Since we can not rehearse our talks for an actual audience, speakers have to present for the family, kids and partners, which I assume it isn't enjoyable for them🙂. It is also struggling to improve the talks, slides and contents without constructive feedback.
I offered my presence in the virtual rehearsals to my network and community. Another great MVP, Arafat and I have attended in a virtual rehearsal session, and it happened to be quite helpful for one of the talks for NDC Porto.
Innovation and collaboration can thrive in restriction
Epic! Regardless of all challenges, my team and I were quite productive and the project was delivered on-time and our client was extremely happy.
Working under Covid19 restrictions emphatically proved that non of the traditional false beliefs about physical presence in the office and old traditional strategies like micromanagement has nothing to do with the sucess and productivity of the teams!
Limitations either can break the team or thrive it! Depens on the motivation, commitment, level of trust in the team, how the team use great technologies and tools out there to facilitate and solve the problems.
These days everyone is saying "looks like remote work even works better."