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Thriving in a Crisis

While many organisations are accustomed to occasional remote work, we are now faced with a sudden global shift to a fully distributed work environment. These unprecedented times bring with it unique opportunities to adopt new tools, techniques and ways of working.

One of the biggest questions we are hearing is - how do we set up our teams, ensuring we remain aligned, engaged, and motivated?

Here at Kin + Carta, we’re well accustomed to working with remote teams, remote individuals and even with remote clients. We’re lucky that we’re able to lean on our expertise on this topic during this undefined period of working from home. We wanted to share some of the knowledge we’ve picked up to help you and your organisation thrive whilst working remotely.

We're offering free Covid-19 resources to help you and your business navigate these unchartered waters.

Explore our free resources here

Making sure sh*t gets done

The most important thing when it comes to working from home is to ensure that ‘business as usual’ is optimised. For us, this means continuing to make awesome products. Regardless of your area of expertise, we believe the following suggestions will help set your team up for success:

1. Create working from home principles for your organisation

Tell your organisation what’s expected from them whilst they’re working remotely. This may include things like expected hours to be online, making sure people turn their cameras on for meetings, or updating their status when they go out for lunch. A simple set of rules makes it clear for everyone to understand what’s expected.

2. Keep an eye on your metrics and inspect and adapt where necessary

All our product teams keep metrics to understand team efficiency and quality. For example, we track cycle time (the time it takes for a work item to go from in progress to done) which allows us to see how quickly work is being produced and how long it’s taking to get through the testing process. The smaller these numbers the better the indication of both efficiency and quality. It’s paramount for team-leads to keep an eye on their metrics especially when there’s a big shift in ways of working. If there are adverse results, the entire team must investigate the changes in data during their fortnightly retrospectives and agree on clear actions to improve their metrics going forwards.

3. Embrace remote collaboration tools to keep your team moving

We love Slack for quick conversations, Zoom for video calls and Google Docs for collaborative writing. There are other great collaboration tools for creating great software, such as JIRA or Trello for tracking work, Tuple for paired programming and Figma or Miro for designing collaboratively.

Keeping up the comms

Communication is important in all businesses, but working with external clients means we have to make sure that we’re crystal clear when it comes to what the team is working on and what we can expect to achieve. We’ve finessed some ways to keep the comms flowing within the organisation and outside of it when we’re physically apart:

1. Use the right method of communication

The Agile principles dictate that the best way of communicating is via face-to-face communication. Obviously, this isn’t so straightforward when everyone is working remotely - however, video-conferencing comes a close second. Other methods of communication can have various pitfalls: email chains mean that teams lose the ability to freely converse, instant messaging such as Slack removes tone of voice (no one wants a tongue-in-cheek comment to be taken seriously) and on phone calls we miss facial expressions. Instant messaging channels such as Slack, are great at disseminating information to large groups of people or for a quick message, but we find discussions are more effective across video.

2. Document key information and decisions

One downfall of using video chat is that key information can be missed. Working in a global organisation, this can be particularly challenging when presented with a range of accents , differing levels of English and the challenge of coordinating meeting times across multiple diaries . For this reason, it’s imperative to write down all key information during video-chats where decisions are being made. This might either be as notes on a shared screen during sessions, recording the session or for post-meeting follow up.

3. Check in with your team often It’s important to make sure that your team is engaged throughout the day

Some more introverted members of the team may be reluctant to reach out if they have questions which could create rework. Holding regular check-ins also ensures that everyone is doing ok, especially necessary as people may be feeling anxious or lonely and might just want a chat. Some of our teams have implemented stand ups throughout the day, coffee break meetings or even created a call where one person is always dialled in incase someone needs to talk.

Zoom video call
Zoom Video Call

Running kickass workshops and retros

As a company that specialises in product strategy and agile, we are passionate about running interactive and engaging sessions to get the best ideas from the crowd. This can be challenging in a remote setting, but when done well, this can work as well as (or even better than) being in the room:

1. Online resources are your best friend

Here are some great online resources to make your workshops and retros out of this world. There are a lot of collaboration tools, but here are a few of our favourites:

  • Zoom: A fantastic video conferencing tool with a capacity of up to 500 call participants at one time! The tool also has the ability to create “breakout rooms” when you want to split up your teams
  • Miro: In a nutshell, it’s a digital whiteboard, but that feels like a massive oversimplification! It’s a fantastic tool which gives you a blank canvas for creating your session. This week our team used Miro to facilitate a creative ideation workshop with Tesco
  • Google Slides: If you’re looking for something simpler than Miro, Google Slides allows you to create worksheets for your teams to fill out in your sessions. This is particularly valuable if you split off into groups

2. Prep and share before your session

As is the case with creating any meaningful meeting or session, effective prep can make all the difference. Using tools such as Miro means you can prep your whole session ahead of time. Writing out clear, readable instructions and including examples expected output of conversations can improve communications, engagement and continuous improvement throughout your session.

3. Give people time and space to share

Split your session into purposeful exercises, timebox them and give everyone a dedicated time to share. Ensuring people are on mute when others are presenting back avoids awkward interruptions, feedback or background noise. Saving questions for the end gives the discussion more focus and purpose.

Maximising morale and culture

At K+C Create Europe, we love an excuse to get together - whether that’s devouring a cake at our weekly tea time, getting stuck into a team lunch or enjoying a pint with Bev Ops CoP at the local boozer. All of these activities create a great buzz across the business and boost morale at the most difficult times but rely on people sharing the same physical space. We’ve come up with some ways to keep up the spirit across locations digitally:

1. Recreate experiences remotely

With a little imagination and a zoom link, you can make anything remote. For some inspiration, so far we have launched:

  • Remote lunch - anyone can join whilst they’re eating
  • Remote exercise + meditation classes - one person leads and everyone else can follow from their home
  • Remote tea time - individuals are buddied up to have a chat over tea
  • Remote pub session - bring your own drink and come and have a chat with the regular pub crowd after work
  • Remote weekly company wrap up - with lighthearted segments such as “cribs” where we get a tour of someone’s house
  • Internet gaming - teams getting together to play games online from classics such as charades over video-conference, to websites and software such as Jackbox Games, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, and Kahoot quizzes as well as a lot more!
  • Live Radio sessions - anyone can dial in and listen to a radio or DJ session hosted by a colleague. Below we have our very own Jason Turner DJing through our lunch break. 
dj-ing remotely