Culture

Agile Coach Emily Webber on Fostering Inclusion for Remote Work

27 Apr 2020 5:00pm, by

How do we promote diversity and inclusion from the comfort of our homes? How do we recreate those important hallway moments within a virtual environment? How do we continue to consider the consequences of what we’re building? We begin to answer these questions and more in this episode of The New Stack Makers podcast, where we interview Emily Webber, independent agile delivery and digital transformation consultant, coach and trainer, and author of the book “Building Successful Communities of Practice.”

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Webber, like everyone The New Stack is interviewing as of late, was calling in via Zoom from her home office. Usually she’d be working between her clients’ offices in London and in India. Even for someone who has built part of her brand on remote meet-ups, nothing about this is business as usual. “This isn’t working from home. This is working at home in a crisis, which is very different from working from home,” Webber said.

Webber is based in London, where, in normal times, it’s completely common to see people eating lunch at their desks. But when she visits her client in India, they all take breaks and share meals together in the canteen. There she’s not only experienced a huge leveling up in terms of cuisine, but she’s witnessed the innovation that comes from those chance encounters around the hallway, cafeteria, and water cooler.

Webber has borrowed what John Goulah, from Etsy, calls “assisted serendipity,” applying it to our temporarily remote-first world. This can be using a Slack app like Donut or Shuffl to facilitate random coffee pairings. Or host remote coffees or happy hours. It may be assisted, but it is an efficient way of crossing cross-departmental silos, as well as to fight isolation during these trying times.

“It’s just about getting to know people. It’s much easier to work with somebody if you’ve met them before. So, part of doing my Agile in the Ether Slack group was to say, ‘Let’s meet some people in an environment that isn’t everyone together at the same time, which might mean that if then you bump into someone at a conference later on, then you know them already. You’ve got friends in the crowd,'” Webber said.

This all goes into why she has founded a handful of unique agile meetups, ranging from Agile on the Bench park meetings to her current Agile in the Ether. Instead of hosting them after work when folks have to be parents or are wiped out or working late anyway, she decided to make them more inclusive with a remote lunchtime meetup and a remote agile conference.

Webber says she’s learned to keep sessions small and to help attendees how to interact in this new remote space. She’s also created a Diversity Charter to help other events — online and off — become more intentionally inclusive.

We also talk to Webber about her work with responsible tech think tank DotEveryone to develop the agile practice of Consequence Scanning. It’s important with everything we do — especially in building the future — that we consider:

  • What are the intended and unintended consequences of this product or feature?
  • What are the positive consequences we want to focus on?
  • What are the consequences we want to mitigate?

“The whole idea of kind of move fast and break things being actually itself a little bit broken,” Webber said.

“Consequence scanning is all about saying, ‘Let’s have a moment regularly where we pause, and we think about what impact or what the consequences are going to be of the stuff that we’re building, or what the positive and negative consequences might be the stuff that we’re building?’ And building that habit in so you can regularly say ‘Is this happening? Is this not happening? What we get to do about it?'” she continued.

And of course, this has to be carried over to how we deal with our teammates and users, especially now during the pandemic.

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