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  • Writer's pictureJuan Beck

Do you believe in distributed work now?

As companies are forced to move to a distributed work environment during this pandemic, many of them are struggling to figure out how to do business in this new way. We should remember that most companies aren't in tech and the thought of employees "working from home" goes against the conventional wisdom of many executives. Recently, a colleague of mine shared an article about the power and effectiveness that scrum can have on teams and it reminded me that there is great hope in changing the conventional wisdom (article link at the bottom).

Key reasons from the article for how scrum works and why it may be an attractive option for your organization:

  • Team members personally commit to achieving the goals of the team which are informed by the greater business strategy or roadmap.

  • Scrum teams value psychological safety, which gives members the courage to speak up, do the right thing, and work out tough problems.

  • Everyone focuses on the "sprint" at the same time. Sprints are smaller chunks of work with specific goals for a given period of time (typically no more than 2 weeks).

  • The Scrum Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work on a weekly to daily basis. This helps to hold everyone accountable and ensures that progress is always being made.

Having successful Scrum teams is much more about the healthiness of the team as a whole versus how successful an individual on the team may be. What is great (and proven by Google and many other companies) is that measuring the health of teams can be done with these very simple YES/NO questions:

  • Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

  • Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?

  • Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?

  • Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?

  • Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Surveying teams with these simple questions on a regular basis can be very powerful in a number of ways:

At the team level:

  • Highlights where the gaps in the team are. Whether it is someone specific that needs support or the team as a whole needs change.

  • Holds individuals accountable to themselves and each other. If you or others answer “NO” to these questions, it forces you to ask “why?”.

  • It holds managers accountable for their ability to make adjustments and support their teams.

At the executive level:

  • Allows the executive team to compare the health of teams and their metrics to the company’s KPIs, giving you a more holistic and accurate measurement of company health and viability of human resources.

  • Makes it easier to scale the business and addresses the “bus factor”. If you have healthy teams, you rely a lot less on a single essential person. Something that is explained in a great way by Balaji Srinivasan on Eric Weinstein’s “The Portal” podcast.

  • These surveys could further simplify the individual review process by focusing more on  the team as a whole and taking pressure off the individual. To some degree, contextualizing compensation at a team level instead of solely at the individual level.

If you’ve been running a company who had been reluctant to adopt distributed work prior to this pandemic, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that scrum could really help create a more agile, fulfilling work environment for your employees that leads to overall better business results.

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