DevOps Dojos in the World of Remote Working

In this blog, we'll discuss the essential elements needed to implement a successful remote Dojo in your organization.

With the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak forcing more enterprise organizations to adopt remote working environments, Liatrio has evolved and expanded our Dojo Service Offering to provide a fully remote Dojo experience for our customers. Along this journey, we’ve learned a lot and have tried and tested different tools and techniques to successfully execute Dojos in remote settings.

Before we talk more about DevOps Dojos in the world of remote working, let’s first quickly align on what Dojos are, how they work, and how they are best enabled by technology.

Background on Dojos

We've discussed at length why organizations need Dojos. To recap, at its core the Dojo is a cultural movement focused on helping teams and organizations to improve and accelerate their software delivery. The Dojo provides a dynamic and safe environment that helps teams learn and collaborate, improve or evolve individual and team mindsets, and reinforce the knowledge and practices needed to instill new ways of working.

What's the difference between traditional training and the Dojo? In traditional training, learning is an activity separated from actual work, and it’s often difficult to apply this classroom learning to real-world product or service development. The Dojo solves that problem by providing an immersive, distraction-free environment where teams and individuals can experiment and apply what they've learned to their everyday work. This kind of learning and experimentation that occurs in a Dojo isn’t always encouraged (or possible) in day-to-day working environments.

Why Use Remote Dojos?

Software design, development, and practices have evolved, enabling teams from startups to larger enterprises to be distributed across different locations and time zones. Video calls, chat systems, distributed editing, and other technologies have helped bridge the communication gap in these distributed environments. Distributed team’s active participation in remote Dojos is inevitable in the current technology age.

Today, remote Dojos have become essential for enterprise organizations. Regardless whether an organization has co-located teams or distributed teams, they need a strong culture that promotes open communication, continuous learning and improvement. Remote Dojos are especially helpful for people who are unable to travel. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to create remote friendly Dojo experiences.

In order to maintain a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace, organizations need to upskill their teams through remote learning and remote working.

What Is a Remote Dojo Experience?

So what exactly is a remote Dojo? In the simplest terms, team members and Dojo coaches collaborate virtually in pairing or mobbing sessions to learn new ways of working and apply what they’ve learned to real-world applications, products, and services. As with in-person Dojos, hyper-sprints (2 ½ day sprints) enable learning through repetition and delivery of fast feedback to the team.

Remote-friendly tools and platforms enable teams to collaborate, pair, and share feedback across multiple locations and time zones. Coaches lead teams through their Dojo experience and help them accomplish the goals outlined in a Dojo charter. A remote Dojo should bridge communication gaps and facilitate collaboration among remotely dispersed team members.

Essential Elements for Successful Remote Dojos

The success of remote Dojos depends on several factors: a remote-friendly culture, the right tools and technologies, leadership support, skilled DevOps coaches, and champion teams.

Remote-Friendly Culture

The Dojo, whether physical or remote, should be a safe place for teams to experiment, which will accelerate the organizational transformation of mindset, technology, and practices. A remote-friendly culture that encourages open communication and teamwork across all levels (top down and bottom up) is the foundation for an organization’s ability to leverage the Dojo as a vehicle for change and improvement. Innersourcing will enable the organization to strengthen its culture of collaboration and reach its full potential. In addition, utilizing a shared services/platform support model with open repos will allow various teams and lines of businesses to share knowledge and exchange feedback.

Tools and Technologies

In place of a dedicated, distraction-free physical space, a remote environment will require the proper tools and equipment in order to enable continuous learning and team growth. Liatrio has firsthand experience using the following tools to support remote Dojos on a daily basis:

  • Video chat systems, which help create a remote version of a physical Dojo experience and enable effective pairing, mobbing, and group activities. Every participant should have standard equipment, including a webcam and a headset with a microphone.
  • Persistent chat, which drives transparent communication across all levels. Huddle rooms created in chat systems are key to simulating the physical experience of breaking off from the main room.
  • Whiteboarding tools, which enable teams to align ideas and solve problems collaboratively.

Leadership Support

Leaders play an important role in the success of the remote Dojo. They do the following:

  • Support and encourage teams to participate in the Dojo.
  • Empower teams by giving them the opportunities, skills, and tools they need to become high-performing teams that can stay ahead of the competition.
  • Reward teams that learn to work in a new way and set an example for the teams that follow.

Skilled DevOps Dojo Coaches

Dojo coaches can make or break a Dojo experience, especially in a remote setting. Remote Dojo coaches need to put in additional effort to make the remote experience fun and immersive. Dojo coaches and other external experts should be assigned to the Dojo based on the team's needs and on the product and technical challenges being solved.

In order to provide a successful Dojo experience for a team, we recommend that organizations do the following:

  • Form and align Dojo coaching squads based on findings from the Dojo discovery/charter performed at team level or value stream/business unit level.
  • Pair Dojo coaches for each Dojo experience and assign them to a team based on the team’s goals and desired outcomes identified during the charter as part of the Dojo intake phase.
  • Give Dojo coaches opportunities to continuously learn and improve based on their Dojo experiences.
  • Rotate Dojo coaches in as engineers on an actual platform and on product teams on a regular basis to ensure their skills remain current and sharp.

Champion Teams

For the initial round of remote Dojos, we recommend that organizations identify teams that have been working well together remotely and that have influence and visibility across the organization. Ideally, these champion teams will solve challenges that are common across the enterprise in order to encourage and influence subsequent teams to embrace the new ways of working. As organizations expand their Dojo practice, they can offer broader and more tailored Dojo offerings.

Though Challenging to Implement, Remote Dojos Bring Great Rewards

Due to advancements in technology and the widely distributed nature of our industry, remote Dojos are the wave of the future. Nonetheless, executing remote Dojos for distributed teams comes with challenges that need to be addressed through proper alignment of culture, the right tools and technologies, strong leadership support, expert insights from coaches, and the support of champion teams.

Supportive and dynamic remote Dojo environments must be strategically designed in order to take into account the needs of distributed teams. An organization’s transformation goal should drive the success of all Dojos, whether in person or remote. Liatrio has found the Dojo to be the most meaningful vehicle for team modernization where learning and the desire for continuous improvement truly stick.

To learn more about Liatrio’s detailed approach to Dojos, check out our Dojo Playbook.

Let Liatrio guide you through this journey. Let’s talk!

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About Liatrio

Liatrio is a collaborative, end-to-end Enterprise Delivery Acceleration consulting firm that helps enterprises transform the way they work. We work as boots-on-the-ground change agents, helping our clients improve their development practices, react more quickly to market shifts, and get better at delivering value from conception to deployment.

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