I recently took an online training course that spanned over two days. Having cameras on throughout the two days was mandatory to get the certification. It was refreshing that the instructor embraced when the participant’s kids came into view of the camera. Or, when the cat jumped on the participant’s keyboard. A few days after I finished the certification, it occurred to me that I had started and completed several projects over the last three years where I didn’t even know what my teammates looked like. This intrigued me – so I took a trip down the rabbit hole.
Did you know that research conducted by the 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text? The study also found that we are 90% visual beings. Additionally, research shows that people can remember over 2,000 pictures with at least 90% accuracy in recognition tests over several days. Picture memory is potentially superior because it may automatically engage multiple representations and associations with other knowledge worldwide. With most teams spanning worldwide these days, it is essential to connect with the team via the camera every couple of weeks at a minimum. The camera allows the team to create a more genuine connection – allowing us to maximize our visual communication skills, naturally building team morale.
As a Scrum Master, I wondered at what ceremony it makes sense to request that cameras be turned on. With all the research indicating the value of visual images, face-to-face connections are likely to increase the team’s collaboration. Additionally, it is likely to improve communication, which leads to increased productivity. The more I thought about this question, I kept coming back to the Demo and Retro ceremony. “The Demo” (aka “Sprint Review”) is the ceremony where the team shows off all the hard work and effort put into the sprint. “The Retro” occurs at the end of the sprint and is an opportunity for the team to speak up about what is working, what is not working, and opportunities for improvement.
I anticipated getting some pushback about cameras being on during the Demo and Retro ceremonies. Recently, I had an opportunity to test my theory. During Sprint 0, as we worked through our Team Agreement, I suggested that all cameras be on during Demo and Retro days – about every ten working days. I asked if anyone had objections; after all, it’s 6 AM for some and 6 PM for others. I was shocked; not one team member had any complaints. Two weeks later, we hit the mark. I began the meeting, setting the tone of the discussion with my camera on, and everyone followed. Seeing faces for the first time brought fresh energy to the meeting; it made me smile. It made the team smile!
Although there is no substitute for in-person collaboration, “Cameras On” should be discussed in every project. A good place to begin this conversation is during the team agreement discussion. While the team defines the ready and done, the team can discuss the point of having the cameras on and at what ceremony. The team may agree to have cameras on during the sprint review or the first daily standup of the sprint. No matter the cadence, turn the cameras on and embrace the information absorbed through visual communication!
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