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Upskilling for Remote Reality. Reflections from the longest month ever.

March 2020 has finally come to an end.

How has it been for you? What have you noticed? What have you learnt?

There's been a number of experiments I've ran during this time. Every experiment brought in a new learning, a new discovery and introduced me to a multitude of tools and practices that can enable rich collaboration in the remote setting. 

This blog is a collection of my Aha! Moments from these experiments.

My "appreciation of the month" award goes to Nancy White, Fisher Qua, Anna Jackson, Keith McCandless and many others in the amazing Liberating Structures community, who have been offering the space and opportunities for anyone willing, to experiment with taking 33+ Liberating Structures into a virtual space.

To help communities around the world navigate uncertainty of COVID-19 pandemic a new "pandemicresponse" Slack channel got created on March 2nd, a list of on-line meeting facilitation tools assembled and many free sessions have been facilitated by this group.

My first Aha!Moment: There is a way to use Chat and avoid Groupthink.

Liberating Structures translate beautifully from an in-person to on-line facilitation with creative application of various Zoom features (Breakout Rooms, Annotations, Chat, Reactions etc) as well as simple collaboration tools like Google Slides.

One of the Chat tricks I learnt for managing groupthink:

  1. Facilitator asks a group to type in responses to a posted question (in Chat) without hitting "Send".

  2. Waits 30 seconds.

  3. Asks the group to hit "Send" and then to watch responses coming in all at once.

  4. This can be followed by a few other question/ syncronized response routines.

  5. Participants are then invited to read groups' responses as well as given access to the saved chat file to reflect on later.

Try it in your next on-line collaboration, and be prepared to be surprised!

I've been invited to present at Large Scale Scrum Meetup on tips and tricks for remote facilitation. What a great opportunity for another experiment!

While I've been using many Zoom features in the past, until these last few weeks, I couldn't even think about running it with over 20 people. Now I was running it with 80 - 100 people, "learning by falling forward" and discovering "Dos and Don'ts" with breakout rooms and collaboration tools.

We called it a Virtual Collaboration/Facilitation Lab for a reason - we were ready to blow things up in a process of discovery and learning.

Aha!Moment # 2: Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Have a plan B.

Here is what I learnt from that experiment:

  1. Everything takes MUCH longer in a virtual space ( ~1.5x times longer).

  2. When people join Zoom via two or more devices (one for audio, one for video) they use up 2 or more participants slots in the 100 participants Zoom)

  3. When participants are sent to breakout rooms, each of these devices (see #2) will count as a participant. Yes, I ended up sending someone's audio into one breakout room and their video into another. Fun!

  4. People who join via phone have access to less features in Zoom or it takes longer for them to navigate between different screens ( see #1)

  5. If you have an option, consider asking someone to join you as a tech facilitator - they will help you manage your plan B, or respond to an emergency if your session will attract Zoombombing.

I've been a part of this group as a member, speaker, organizer for over 8 years. We've always met in person, always loved hands-on workshops and always enjoyed a special atmosphere this group created. Until this month, when no longer we could gather in a physical room for our favourite event - World Retrospective Day.

For our first ever virtual meetup, my experiment was to combine a five steps retrospective framework with virtual Liberating Structures. Read this blog post to learn about my final design for this workshop.

Aha!Moment #3: You can't "wing it" with a large scale remote meeting. Dry runs and early feedback are critical.

I've been on public speaking circuit for about 6 years and have spoken at 50 conferences, mostly as a solo speaker.

Working with the current NYC SUG organizers (Mary Pratt, Bob Gass, Jim Dermend, Jeremy Franck and Basia Vitanza) to validate my design, do the dry runs and improve the workshop based on their feedback was critical in delivering a workshop that resonated with participants from many countries.

Thank you team, you've made a huge difference.

The Kudos below is as much for you as it is for me!

Virtual Certified LeSS Basics

An opportunity to help re-design and co-facilitate the first virtual Certified LeSS Basics class with Gene Gendel brought in experiments with Miro, Mural and Jamboard, while searching for a suitable tool for running system modeling activities and facilitating interactive learning for the class participants. 

Aha!Moment #4: Use the "Simplest tool that can possibly work".

You can't simply take your 1 - 2 days in-person class and run it virtually without any adjustments. Many in-room activities need to be simplified or modified for virtual delivery, while keeping their desired learning outcome in mind.

Don't start with fancy tools. If it takes time for you to figure out how to use it, it will take even more time for your class participants.

Worse, if they can't overcome a technology barrier quickly enough, they may get frustrated and disengage from the class.

Make it simple to help your participants focus on reflection and enable long-term content retention!

Keep your class size small to allow for a lot of interaction in the main room and in the breakout rooms. The fun part about collaborating with Gene on this class was a fast feedback loop: continuous improvement of the content delivery format, inspection and adaptation of activities on the Miro boad etc.

Read this blog post about our last class and consider registering for the next one here.

What's next?

I will be running more experiments with virtual meetups and classes in April.

Will you join me?


Agile Facilitation/Training(virtual edition) - new class

Remote collaboration- unleashed!

23 April - 1 May, 2020

10h of experiential learning

Proven approach to making on-line training, workshops or Scrum events effective, brain-friendly & fun with Liberating Structures and Training from the Back of the Room (TBR) principles adapted for Virtual space. Small groups, morning and afternoon sessions available.

As a special "Thank you" for reading this blog, go ahead and take 20% off this new class with a promo code "BLOG": reserve your seat now!


DevOps Culture Certified Trainer class is back!

I got a request to run my DevOps Culture Certified Training class next week at APAC/EMEA - friendly time (April 9, 6AM - 9 AM EST)

A few public tickets are available at a reduced price (include access to DCCT exam from CertiProf LLC). If you've attended my DevOps with Lego and Chocolate workshop in UK, India, Finland, Germany or Russia, now you can learn to run its latest version and debrief it well with Liberating Structures. Consider booking your seat.


Remote consulting

Need help taking your training on-line, creating or facilitating engaging and impactuful sessions with Liberating Structures?

Book a free call with me, let's explore your needs and how I can help.


Remote Facilitation Workshop for Women in Agile Singapore

This on-line community workshop is a re-run of a highly interactive session we presented with Kriti Jaising at WIA SF Bay in February 2020. Please join us for an introduction to brain-based learning and facilitation with Training From the Back of the Room - Virtual Edition. Register

16th April at 7.30-9 PM SGT


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