Blog: DoDi - Definition of Discussed

08.09.2021

In times of the outgoing pandemic, a flexibilization of work (on-site, remote, home office) is taking place. But this has an impact on the collaboration in our agile development teams. Therefore, we propose an extension to include communication elements, which we call "Definition of discussed".

In times of the outgoing pandemic, hybrid work models are becoming increasingly relevant; people no longer work only in the office or only in the home office. Flexibilization is taking place, which is certainly a good development. However, this has an impact on collaboration in our agile development teams. Therefore, we propose an extension with communication elements, which we call "Definition of Discussed".

In the pandemic, our agile development model was able to "virtualize" quite well and we as Arctive got through it without any damage. The different video conferencing solutions also work sufficiently well for us when working with customers. Of course it is nicer face-to-face and a lot has been written and philosophized about it.

But what happens when it comes to hybrid collaboration, which we now increasingly have to master in our projects?

What is hybrid collaboration?

By hybrid collaboration, we mean working together on a topic, especially in the form of meetings in which some of the participants are on-site together and some participate virtually.

Special challenges

Here two different forms of communication collide, virtual participants are limited compared to the on-site team and can often contribute less. This certainly does not happen consciously, but it does happen. This affects the following areas, among others:

  • Non-verbal communication (limited, one does not "see" everything that is happening in the room and can react less effectively to it.
  • Collaboration e.g. on a whiteboard or flip-chart (either you have to ask someone to write down your input or you go back to purely virtual whiteboards, which often lead to everyone looking at their screen in face-to-face meetings and limit the benefits of on-site work.
  • Participation (in intense discussions, virtual participants are often left behind because it's harder for them to make themselves heard).
  • Sound and video quality (quite banally, in a larger group without special solutions, virtual participants are often hard to hear and in return, discussions in the room are hard to hear, the same goes for video)
With mixed teams

An important influencing factor is that teams are often mixed, i.e. employees from different companies participate. In such a set-up, the challenges can even intensify.

and agile development

Like many, we rely on Scrum or other agile process models. What they all have in common is that they rely on a few, defined artifacts such as meetings, which have very clear goals and aim to promote the commitment of the participants. In Scrum, interfaces in the development process are subject to agreements that the team has agreed upon. For example, there is an agreement that says what properties a story must have so that it can be scheduled (Definition of Ready) and an agreement that says when a story is finished (Definition of Done).

Definition of discussed

Communication is also about «something», namely the content of the communication. And since communication is maximized and particularly important in agile development projects, we suggest making an additional agreement, the definition of discussed (DoDi).

Here, the team members agree on how they want to deal with the special challenges of hybrid collaboration. At this point, we can only give suggestions; each team must determine for itself what is helpful and can be implemented in the specific environment. However, we firmly believe that such an agreement helps to fuel the learning process and ultimately lead to more satisfaction of all team members and better results of the teams.

Elements ours DoDi

We have had good experience with the following arrangements in our DoDi:

  1. A raised hand with a virtual participant has priority
  2. Rotation of who is on site if the team cannot be complete
  3. Discussion points are marked as closed after everyone has (really) spoken about it
  4. At the end of a session, a buffer is planned so that virtual participants do not have to leave abruptly; it is announced when this buffer is reached.
  5. An on-site member pays explicit attention to virtual requests to speak and reinforces them.
  6. After a discussion point, all participants say whether the topic is sufficiently discussed for them or should be discussed again separately.
  7. We vote among all participants which tool is currently used (online whiteboard, flip-chart, etc.)
  8. At least who is speaking has his video turned on, no sound without video
  9. Meetings with virtual participants should be recorded and created in order to be able to retrace something afterwards.
  10. Everyone should get equal speaking time, whether virtual or face-to-face
  11. At the end of a meeting a round in which everyone explicitly gives his feedback on whether he has contributed enough and could contribute.
There are many other possibilities and I would be happy to hear from you what works well for you.

- Christian

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