Building a remote balanced work culture for the tech team

Originally published at https://medium.com on September 15, 2021.

The transition of working from the office to working from home/remote has led most people to rework the entire concept of collaboration. It motivated us to rethink workflow and optimize it for productivity and self-growth. Now that most of the organizations are planning to introduce a hybrid work model, I would like to share our learnings at Khatabook regarding remote tech team culture.

At Khatabook, we have worked and optimized the concerns of communication, workflow, and meetings. This article explains the thought process and motivation behind improving each concerning area.

A. Communication should be async

The motivation of effective communication should be to convey the message with lesser words in the fastest way possible, & without ambiguity.

We focus highly on non-verbal communication; which saves everyone’s time. For routine communication related to availability, no-internet, we use statuses on Slack. A simple reaction with 👍 or 👀 is enough to acknowledge the post.

Examples of predefined status at org-level
  • Instead of quick calls, we believe in the quick sharing of relevant information that contains enough historical context.
  • We focus on detailed documented descriptions across tools/platforms. Our communication tools are integrated to streamline information flow without any redundancy.
  • Jira has shared discussions related to the tasks in the comment section.
  • Gitlab is integrated with Jira, to sync tickets with PR merge status.
  • Notion has organized brain-dumps of tech & design discussions and is a great platform for documenting Product Requirement Documents (PRDs) as well.
  • Zoom records walkthroughs, KT sessions, tech talks for future reference.
  • Figma contains designs & discussions related to design.
Examples of collaboration tools

B. WorkFlow should be decoupled across the team

The motivation was to limit each team’s meeting time and achieve an un-blocking workflow. All it took was a series of regular retrospective calls, to arrive at a process that works independently and requires extremely low cross-team communication.

  • Backlog grooming with a soft assignment to developers
  • Sprint planning happens in a gap of at least 2 days to give developers time to estimate with high confidence
  • Weekly Demo happens at the end of the dev sprint-cycle, for features that need to be released
  • Perform sanity and regression test
  • Report P0/blocker bugs; that need to be fixed on priority
  • The release cycle is independent of the entire dev-cycle. All QA-passed features are packaged and taken ahead for release in a separate cycle.
  • PM suggests if they need a feature flag toggle for the passed feature for safety reasons.
  • Release and gather feedback to share with the team.

We follow a hybrid of Scrum & Kanban, combining important features of both methodologies. The Scrumban framework merges the structure and predictable routines of Scrum with Kanban’s flexibility to make teams more agile, efficient, and productive.

Being highly available online itself could be a tedious & psychologically draining task. That’s why apart from weekly rotational on-call, we also have release manager (RM) responsibility on rotation. The responsibility of RM is to facilitate code reviews, create Release Candidates, coordinate with QA teams for final sign-offs, release builds on platforms (such as Playstore, Appstore), and monitor the stability of builds for staged rollouts.

C. Meetings should be limited and planned

The highest bandwidth of sharing information comes from video calls and there’s no replacement for that. We use it effectively with limited time and well-defined agenda. Few most common agenda on which team gets on the call are:

Everyone time is critical, the motivation of a stand-up call is just to have a quick sync-up to unblock others.

Once each one has done the homework, these calls help to figure out the best optimal path with all feedback and take decisions collectively.

When an incident is at the highest urgency and it needs immediate attention, RCA & fixing via call-based discussion.

Team building rituals; happens at the company level and pod-level. It’s well-planned events where we come and play games; talk about life moments.

  • Culture-Vulture: Don’t forget to watch the teaser video at the end of this post.
  • LetsDive.io and Scribbl.io at pod-level

Learnings and Takeaway

Team building rituals; happens at the company level and pod-level. It’s well-planned events where we come and play games; talk about life moments.

  • There is no need for constant check-ups with high-frequency calls
  • Meeting time is limited with defined agenda.
  • There is a comfortable time to figure out estimation and scalable design.
  • The process’s health metrics give enough visibility, that org can focus on the overall goals rather than each minute detail.
  • Most importantly, we get our fun, bonding, and game time without cutting any process calls.

And Presenting to you, memories of Culture-Vulture Season 2

‘Culture-Vulture’ team within Khatabook arranges cultural events with lots of games and fun challenges for teams. This has helped in cross-team bonding as well. So far we’ve seen 2 seasons. Here’s a glimpse of Season 2 that ended recently, and we’re already gearing up for season 3 now.

Originally published at https://medium.com on September 15, 2021.

Code, arts, process and aspirations. co-Founded GreedyGame | IIT Ropar. Found at www.arinkverma.in

Code, arts, process and aspirations. co-Founded GreedyGame | IIT Ropar. Found at www.arinkverma.in