Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#43: Cultivating Agile Team Culture in a Virtual World with Richard Cheng

April 12, 2023     35 minutes

In this episode of the Agile Mentors podcast, Brian and Richard Cheng discuss the challenges of working in a virtual environment, sharing insights and strategies for maintaining team collaboration and communication. Listen in for practical tips and expert advice on navigating the changing landscape of remote work.


In this episode of the "Agile Mentors" podcast, Brian and Richard Cheng discuss the challenges and opportunities of the ever-evolving world of remote work in Agile teams and the role of technology in supporting Agile practices.

Listen in as they share their insights on the tools to use, how to maintain team cohesion and collaboration, and the importance of culture and personal connections. You'll find practical tips and inspiring ideas to help you navigate the virtual landscape and thrive in the new normal of work.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:14] - Brian introduces Richard Cheng, founder of Agility Prime Solutions, trainer, teaching CSM, product owner, and combat classes. He is also working on a graphic novel about the adventures of a scrum master. He's here today to discuss the challenges of working.‌
[04:16] - Richard highlights the significant shift towards virtual work that was already happening before the pandemic and the adoption of virtual work tools such as Zoom, Miro, and Slack, which made the transition easier during the pandemic.
[06:22] - Richard emphasizes the importance of using tools that foster better communication and collaboration rather than replacing them. The tools and policies around them should enable people to work better together rather than create more distance.
[07:08] - Richard is relatively agnostic regarding specific tools, but he mentions that he is a huge fan of Zoom for instruction and prefers Miro or Mural for collaboration.
[08:03] - Brian tends to use Mural but also acknowledges the benefits of Miro (and shares a fun fact about Miro).
[09:42] - Brian advises against letting the tool drive the collaboration process and instead focusing on conversations and collaboration first, then finding tools that enhance that process.
[11:00] - Richard agrees with the idea that tools should not drive the team's workflow, but rather the team should drive the tools using the example of Jira™. He advises teams to tailor their tools to support their evolving needs.
[12:46] - Brian acknowledges the importance of standardization in big enterprises and advises teams to refer to items in their terms to better align with their workflow.
[14:20] - Brian shares why tools that allow deep customization are enormously useful because you can implement a wealth of plugins.
[15:01] - The key to keeping it simple—strip it down to the bare bones and then grow it. Richard shares an example from the best Agile shop he ever worked at, The Motley Fool, and their tools, including Bugzilla.
[16:00] - Brian shares the sponsor for the podcast, Mountain Goat Software, and the team home software they use for their Agile and Scrum Training.
[18:39] - Richard discusses the virtual challenges of creating culture and teamwork, including communication, collaboration, and cross-functionality.
[19:15] - The new frontier for companies: experimenting with different methods is essential while adapting methods to make them more effective.
[20:46] - Richard discusses the issue with the Scrum guide's statement that Scrum is immutable, stating that once you're an expert, you should take what works and tweak what doesn't, drawing on an analogy about CrossFit, where workouts can be scaled up or down, and suggest that Scrum should be approached similarly.
[23:48] - Promoting conversation and collaboration between teams, which is a big issue for many teams in the virtual world. Brian points out that time zone differences can be a problem. People on the other side of the globe must experiment more with asynchronous tools to communicate and collaborate effectively.
[24:49] - Collaboration is less about geography and more about times. He promotes time zone friendliness to enable teams to collaborate more effectively and independently. Richard recommends setting up time zone-aligned value streams to improve product and service delivery speed, particularly for organizations with teams in multiple time zones.
[26:25] - Brian emphasizes the importance of maintaining company culture in a virtual environment. He recommends virtual show-and-tell sessions to build a deeper connection among team members.
[27:51] - Richard suggests that events such as game nights and virtual chocolate tastings can help bring teams and organizations closer together, even in a virtual environment. At the same time, optional in-person events for geographically connected teams can also be a good way to foster a sense of togetherness and culture.
[29:15] - To help improve communication and strengthen the team's dynamics, create user manuals for team members: that includes their background, contributions to the team, and
[30:37] - As a Scrum Master and Coach, being there and having osmotic communication was a big part of the job. Without it, we have to engineer everything, which can be challenging.
[31:30] - Brian acknowledges that technology is rapidly changing but emphasizes the importance of not letting the tool drive the conversation. Instead, he suggests promoting collaboration and enabling teams to work better through policies and practices that bring the team together and rethink those that separate them.
[32:56] - You can learn more about Richard and his classes at Agility Prime Solutions or email him at
[34:24] -Join the Agile Mentors Community for further discussion, and if you have an idea for the show or feedback, we'd love to hear from you. Email Brian.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Agility Prime Solutions
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Private Virtual Chocolate Tastings– Bar & Cocoa
You Don't Know Jack Party Packs ​​
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Scrum Alliance
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He’s passionate about making a difference in people’s day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Richard Cheng is the founder of Agility Prime Solutions, which provides training programs that focus on Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and Product Management. Richard is a founder and was an executive committee member of the Agile Delivery for Agencies, Programs, and Teams (ADAPT), an Agile government task force.