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How To Hold A Sprint Meeting With Your Remote Team

January 29, 2019 by Syed Zainul Haque under Digital Mobile App Offshore outsourcing Technology1,128 views
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While close to 71% of businesses choose Agile approaches to manage projects internally, the same methodology can be used to manage external teams as well. To begin with, it is important to choose a remote team that already has an agile framework in place. To educate them on Sprint meetings and how they are done would defeat the purpose of outsourcing work to an external agency. Assuming you are already working with an agile vendor, it only makes sense to manage your remote teams via Sprint meetings.

In this article, let us take a look at how you can hold Sprint meetings with your remote team to enhance productivity.

What is a Sprint meeting?

A Sprint meeting is a quick and collaborative congregation of team members and is a crucial part of Scrum. Part of the Agile framework, Scrum helps you manage knowledge-based work efficiently. It gives you the power to track progress, address vulnerabilities, reduce workload and enhance productivity, all at once. The gist of Scrum philosophy is that quality trounces quantity and that employees are more productive when they work less. While Scrum-based strategies (and Sprint meetings) are often used in-house, Scrum-inspired management techniques help you remotely manage your offshore teams as well.

  • Scrum is renowned for time-boxed iterations called Sprints
  • Sprints consist of time-managed meetings spread across a month, fortnight or a week
  • Progress is tracked daily via 15-minute stand-up meetings known as daily Scrums.

Now, let us take a look at how you can start holding Sprint meetings with your offshore team in order to manage them better.

Start with the Sprint planning meeting

Make an agreement with your vendor to confine all work cycles to iterations or Sprints of 2 weeks. A month-long is a little too much and just a week would probably not give enough time for your team to complete tasks. Define the goal of each Sprint and work towards developing features of an application or tool that are most essential. As with all Sprint meetings, get your offshore team members to speak more than you will. Purists would advise that a manager should never speak and only the team member should. However, in the case of an offshore situation, this is not possible as you probably will conduct these meetings via video or web conferencing tools.

Before you begin to hold your daily Scrum meetings, it is important to start with the Sprint Planning Meeting. Make a hierarchy of features and tasks that need to be prioritized for the product iteration. Product and Sprint backlogs can be managed effectively at the review stage. Here are a few things to consider before you begin your daily Sprint meetings with your offshore team:

  • Define who the ScrumMaster is. The ScrumMaster facilitates the meeting and it is usually advisable to assign this role to someone who can regularly coordinate with an offshore team.
  • Identify the purpose of each meeting and list everyone who will attend these congregations.
  • Plan the Sprints well in advance and set KPIs to measure attainable and relevant goals.
  • Ensure that all the participants have access to good project management tools such as Trello or Nozbe. It is also important to use Slack or another instant messenger which can be used across devices.
  • Decide where the meetings will take place and ensure that your conferencing hardware and software tools are up to date before initiating meetings.
  • Add items to a backlog and make sure that they can be completed within two weeks.

While management expert Bob Sutton (Twitter) explains that “4 is the optimal size for a combat team as evidenced by U.S. Navy Seals”, products analytics company Amplitude suggests a growth team should have 5-10 members. If your offshore team has more members, break them up into smaller teams.

Hold daily Scrum meetings

The most crucial aspect of Scrum meetings is the daily 15-minute meeting with all team members involved. As offshore teams are located far away and you cannot be physically present to oversee project completion, daily Scrum meetings are a non-intrusive and effective way to quantify and measure your progress. Make a small and limited list of questions to ask your offshore team and ensure that the questions track the progress made the previous day, what needs to be done on that particular day, and what obstacles are preventing your offshore team from completing the tasks in hand. Aaron Bjork (Twitter), a group program manager at Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online often asks his team members“What does leadership make you do that is slowing you down”, in order to rectify managerial mistakes.

  • Traditionally, all the team members stand up during the meeting and list what they accomplished during the previous day, what they plan to carry out on the day of the meeting, and the hurdles they currently face.
  • As the meeting will most likely take place over a video or web conferencing tool, nobody has to stand up.
  • Instead, work with the development team and your product manager to assign a random numerical order to each member so that they type/talk only when their turn arrives.

Daily Scrum meetings help you to closely work with your offshore team and break barriers often associated with outsourced projects. A well-planned Scrum meeting will ensure that your offshore team communicates with you effectively on a daily basis. Here are a few things you need to do in order to make your daily meetings a success:

  • Maintain a Sprint task list to keep track of completed and pending work
  • Create a Sprint burndown chart to track the progress of your project
  • List all possible obstacles and impediments that stop your offshore team from excelling. Fix those issues on priority
  • Make sure the daily meetings take place at the same time on the same web conferencing or instant messaging tool.
  • Allow everyone to speak without fear and identify vendor managers who seem to act like gatekeepers when you interact with offshore team members. Address this issue, if required.
  1. Richard Hackman (Harvard University), an expert on team dynamics who passed away a few years ago, addressed the communication nightmare when teams expand by saying “It’s the number of links between people that begins to pose problems in communication than the size of the team”. He suggested enhancing communication links via agile methodology.

He also added, “The larger a group, the more process problems members encounter in carrying out their collective work …. Worse, the vulnerability of a group to such difficulties increases sharply as size increases.” He stressed the importance of breaking up large teams and focusing on decentralization, something that Scrum meetings help achieve quickly.

Review your Sprint meetings

Conduct Sprint review meetings to deliberate on the progress made at the end of a Sprint. While traditionally review meetings last for 4 hours, you can be flexible in your approach when it comes to using the method in an offshore environment.

  • During the review meeting, make sure that your offshore team demonstrates what was developed during the last Sprint
  • Review work that is 100% completed and add other work to your Sprint backlog
  • Make sure that everyone engages cordially and that the ScrumMaster is able to maintain decorum on the digital platform where the meeting takes place

A review meeting is also done in order to present evidence that a product increment has taken place. Depending on the project you have outsourced to your offshore vendor, customize your review meeting and focus on backlogs. When the project is finally completed, you can invite all the stakeholders to the final review where a completed application or project is presented.

  • Prepare for the demo by making a list of questions you may have regarding the finished product or project.
  • Make sure the demo takes place on a platform that is convenient for everyone
  • Seek and provide feedback. If you are not happy with the product or the project, ask your offshore team to add your feedback to the Sprint Backlog.

Finally, conduct a Sprint retrospective meeting

This is a final meeting in which everyone is required to be honest and transparent. All team members should feel free to express what they want to. Retrospective meetings are crucial to ensure post-development support and maintenance. It is also important to address custom requirements based on changing scenarios.

  • Assess what was successful about the Sprint
  • Make a list of things you would like to change
  • Deliberate on what could be done to make those changes happen

Only when every concern has been addressed and both your internal team and the offshore team are satisfied with the Scrum can you end it. As Scrum stresses the importance of transparency, honesty, and mutual respect, it is the right project management strategy to implement in offshore projects.

Use your Scrum meetings to grow as a company and learn from your errors. Dom Price (Twitter), head of R&D at Atlassian warns companies against not evolving while claiming to be agile, “It’s ironic for me that people who are Agile practitioners, ones who are saying Agile is all about evolution, aren’t evolving as people. They’re static. They’re using things they learned 17 years ago and they are deploying it in the exact same way.” Make sure that you do not use agility to pat your own back, but to realistically change and evolve.

Manage your offshore team better with Sprint meetings

As you can see, in an offshore outsourcing situation, Sprint meetings are conducted in three phases. Initially, you should plan how to do the Sprint meetings and what you plan to achieve. This includes assigning roles, defining goals and deciding where the meetings will take place. The second stage involves daily Sprint meetings that last for 15 minutes. These meetings should be held at the same time every day on the same platform and should track progress and identify obstacles. Finally, review and retrospective meetings should be conducted in order to achieve complete transparency and mutual satisfaction. A Sprint can be described as done only when both parties are satisfied with the final result.

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