Virtual Agile Coaching and Training Lead to Synchronized Remote Teams

Dilemma

Due to increasing demands, a US company in the oil industry composed of IT, development, and support teams located across South East Asia and South America was struggling to sustain the excellent support ratings it had enjoyed for answering various business lines 24/7. To find a solution, several problems needed to be addressed:

  • The no barrier policy that had led to the high support ratings was proven to be unsustainable. The 12-hour time difference made it challenging for teams to synchronize their work and improve efficiency.
  • There was also growing pressure for the IT teams to drive innovation within the company as technological disruptions were expected to transform the industry within five years. This meant that it was necessary to design and implement a product strategy focused on providing top notch support and value-adding development.
  • While there was an obvious need for agile practices, members of the existing teams had never been trained in agile. 

Solution and Approach

Given the challenges of the company, coaching teams as SAFe Agile Release Trains (ARTs) led by a virtual program team seemed to be the most effective answer. An Agile Release Train is composed of multiple Agile teams that are focused on creating, testing, and implementing solutions to deliver value to an organization at scale. To make this approach a success, the following was executed:

  • Proper Agile onboarding and coaching were given for each team at every location. 
    • I worked with coaches based in South America to provide the best mentoring possible. Agile training and agile roles coaching were also given.
    • Teams also received proper coaching to help them create a unified vision, live by established corporate values, and embrace their roles together.
    • Agile iterations that allowed for flexibility and changes for improvement also helped to accelerate learning across teams. 
  • Additionally, alternate training was also provided as needed to maximize learning. 
  • Program rituals and artefacts were adapted to address the realities of across-the-globe communications.
    • Different time zones, culture, and alignment were taken into consideration to:
      • Define synchronisation points in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.
      • Define protocols and artefacts templates to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding information, tasks, and goals.
    • We also experimented on different coaches synchronization to find the best one for effective team alignment.
  • Remote coaching was implemented to help and support a distributed SAFe program team across three continents.
    • Coordinating with the company’s Agile supervising entity in the US, we facilitated virtual coaching and team training.
    • Aside from online mentoring, face-to-face coaching was also provided at each location. 
    • Finally, we also experimented with facilitating remote meetings and workshops.

Success Story

While the organization had its struggles in keeping everyone in sync early on, the IT and support teams eventually became a well-oiled machine–a force of innovation for the organisation within three short months. The SAFe Agile Release approach yielded the following successes:

  • The program team quickly found its footing and even led its own SAFe experiment within three weeks.
  • The teams became fully autonomous in Agile, capable of building their own custom practices after only three months.
  • They also became confident and extremely capable, challenging business users and proposing solutions to help them better.
  • Lessons from the intensive coaching and training the teams received reshaped the coaching approach for upcoming Agile Program transformation in other branches of the business.
  • New profiles also emerged as product owners who have a fresh sense of leadership. 
  • These product owners and the program team became valued mentors for other programs, ensuring continuous growth and improvement for the organization.