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The Async-First Playbook: Remote Collaboration Techniques for Agile Software Teams

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  • Copyright 2024
  • Pages: 368
  • Edition: 1st
  • eBook (Watermarked)
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-818757-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-818757-6

Reimagining Agile for Distributed and Remote Teams

Distributed work is now inevitable, but conventional agile approaches are too "synchronous" for today's remote teams. Meetings, ceremonies, and rituals can become unsustainable when teams are scattered across the globe. The result: burnout, constant interruptions, a lack of deep work, poor work-life balance, greater frustration, and workplaces with poor diversity.

In The Async-First Playbook, Thoughtworks Principal Product Manager Sumeet Gayathri Moghe provides tools and techniques to embed remote-native, asynchronous practices into traditional agile methods, making remote work more efficient, inclusive, thoughtful, and fun.

Drawing on extensive experience leading distributed teams, Moghe addresses the "nuts and bolts" of specific practices and the crucial "softer" elements such as culture, mindset, and leadership. Short, practical chapters show how to adapt traditional agile techniques such as sprints and pair programming for the realities of today's distributed environments. Whatever your project, you'll learn how to create asynchronous environments that promote success, improve the workplace experience, and deliver better results.

  • Discover why asynchronous collaboration is crucial to your project's success
  • Learn the tools, skills, and protocols you need to get right in order to go "async-first"
  • Map current agile techniques to async-first versions that better reflect today's realities
  • Become a more supportive and effective leader of async-first teams
  • Anticipate, navigate, and mitigate the pitfalls of async-first distributed work
  • Bring it all together--walk through your async-first transition
  • Access valuable resources, examples, and hands-on templates at the companion website

"This playbook will empower you to lead and build differently. All that you need is an open mind and a belief that the status quo isn't worthy of defining the future."
--From the Foreword by Darren Murph

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Download companion resources from the author's site:

Sample Content

Table of Contents

Foreword by Martin Fowler xxi
Foreword by Darren Murph xxiii
Preface xxv
Acknowledgments xxix
About the Author xxxiii

Part I: Adapting to the New Normal 1

Chapter 1: There's Got to Be a Better Way to Work 3
Work Deserves a New Look 5
A Better Work Environment for All of Us 11

Chapter 2: Foster a Mindset for Change 13
Four Simple Ideas 13
Go Far, Go Together 19
Ready for the First Steps 19

Part II: Prepare to Go Async-First 21

Chapter 3: The Tools You Need 23
With Tools, Less Is More 23
Tools Are Everything; Tools Are Nothing 27

Chapter 4: The Biggest Async-First Superpower 29
Writing Is a Practice; Documentation a Product 30
To Work Async-First, We Must Write 41

Chapter 5: Three More Async-First Superpowers 43
What an Async-First Superhero Looks Like 43
Personal Productivity Leads to Team Productivity 47

Chapter 6: Calm Things Down with Collaboration Protocols 49
Work Execution vs. Workflow 49
Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals 56

Part III: The Practitioner's Guide 57

Chapter 7: Meetings as the Last Resort 59
Just. Too Many. Meetings. 59
Async-First, with Small Shifts 66

Chapter 8: The Value of Being Face to Face 69
From URL to IRL 69
So Much for Meetings 75

Chapter 9: Micro-Moves to Shift Left 77
Small Shifts, Easy Wins 77
Build Async-First Behavioral Cues 85

Chapter 10: Write a Team Handbook 87
Distributed Teams Need a Single Source of Truth 87
Aim for a Shared Reality 95

Chapter 11: Tame the "Instant" in Instant Messaging 97
Make Messaging Productive 97
Messaging: Just Not Instant 105

Chapter 12: Standup Meetings: An Easy Shift Left 107
Distributed Standups Can Be Painful 108
Standups = Conveyance/Strong Relationships 116

Chapter 13: Take Charge of Your Development Cycles 117
Sprint Ceremonies Can Hinder Async Work 117
The Key to Asynchrony Is a Strong Process 125

Chapter 14: Run Meaningful Retrospectives 127
Infrequent Retros Lead to Poor Team Health 127
Scrum for the 2020s 135

Chapter 15: Kickoffs and Desk Checks: Reduce Ritualized Interruptions 137
How to Maintain Quality with Fewer Meetings? 138
Make Your Feedback Loops "Remote Native" 145

Chapter 16: Questions to Reimagine Your Tech Huddles 147
The What and the Why 148
Not a Zero-Sum Game 153

Chapter 17: Pair Programming: The Elephant in the Room 155
A Polarizing Topic 155
If It's Fun for You, Pair by All Means 161

Chapter 18: Audit Trails from the Flow of Your Work 163
The "Just Ask" Pattern Breaks Down 163
Trails as the Most Frequent Form of Documentation 171

Chapter 19: Communicate Tech and Functional Design 173
An Agile Approach to Design 173
Simplify Communication Complexity 178

Chapter 20: Two Stable Pieces of Handbook Documentation 181
Being Agile About Documentation 181
Good Documents Reduce Guesswork 186

Chapter 21: Craft an Efficient Onboarding Process 189
Write Once, Run Many Times 189
Onboarding Efficiency = Team Efficiency 195

Part IV: Async-First Leadership 197

Chapter 22: The Async Leadership Mindset 199
The Tyranny of "The Way" 199
Make Time for the Essential Stuff 206

Chapter 23: Manage Your People with Care 209
Corrections in the Right Direction 209
Be the Bridge Between Your Team and Your Company's Culture 216

Chapter 24: Set Up Your Team for Success 217
Design for Success 217
Your Virtual Workplace Needs Configuring 227

Chapter 25: Farm Tacit Knowledge in Your Company 229
Beyond Handbooks: Into Communities 229
From Team Knowledge to Company Knowledge 238

Part V: Navigate the Pitfalls 241

Chapter 26: The Great Hybrid Kerfuffle 243
People's Preferences Are Heading Remote 243
Choice and Autonomy Are the Key Words 253

Chapter 27: The Async Island 255
Unpacking Organizational Inertia 255
While Being a Guerilla, Don't Forget Advocacy 265

Chapter 28: Toxicity in the Virtual Workplace 267
Toxicity Builds: One Benign Step at a Time 267
As a Leader, Stay Vigilant 271

Part VI: Bring It All Together 273

Chapter 29: The Async-First Starter Kit 275
Five Stages of Sensible Defaults 275
A Team Shift, Owned by the Team 285

Chapter 30: A Brave New World of Work 287
Another World of Work Is Possible 289
It's Time to Sign Off 295

Endnotes 297
Index 321


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