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SVPM Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 has pushed many into isolation, yet that has not deterred numerous people from finding ways to continue to give back, as a way to stay connected to their communities and their passion. It has been tricky for many volunteer organizations to figure out how to effectively operate during the pandemic, yet some have seen growth. Silicon Valley Project Management (SVPM) is an example of an organization that has grown, despite the pandemic. In 2020, SVPM had one team of volunteer professionals immersed in the process of practicing Scrum and Agile methodologies. As we kick off 2021, SVPM has three teams taking the journey and I am delighted to be on board!

So how exactly has COVID-19 impacted California, SVPM’s homebase? Just like other parts of the country we are required to 100% masking (with a few exceptions) and physical distancing. In addition, we have experienced everything from limited Stay Home Orders, to mandatory Stay Home Orders (with only a few exceptions). The restrictions are determined by looking at the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and Dashboard, which were created to track case counts and testing case rates. Then the Public Health Department regularly updates the results for each county, which determines what tier and associated restrictions will apply to that county. The tier and restrictions have fluctuated in each county over the last year. The strictest orders in Santa Clara county have prohibited private gatherings of any size and have required everyone to stay at home, except for those who have an essential job or leave to shop for essential needs. This translates to closed operations for everything except for critical infrastructure and essential retail. 

Understanding the challenging circumstances you may ask: ‘how has SVPM still managed to have so much growth?’  A brief look into our history is necessary to explain this. In January of 2018, SVPM started as an in-person co-location group in the Bay Area, which is a common practice in Scrum. The team soon found that logistically Bay Area traffic, which could mean up to 2 hours of extra commute, made it challenging to attend the in-person Scrum Ceremonies in their already busy schedules. So the team quickly applied empiricism and lean thinking, and adapted by changing the structure of the Scrum Ceremonies to a remote one. This transition required a lot of trial and error, and a strong need for new tools and technology to support the format. By February of 2020 the team had adopted tools such as Zoom, Doodle, Planning Poker and Trello, as well as a great cadence for working remotely. This created an opportunity to open the doors to volunteers everywhere in the country, which propelled the organization’s growth. So in March of 2020 when COVID-19 hit, we never skipped a beat! The team was prepared and in the final stage “performing” of Tuckman’s five stage group development model. Perhaps we got lucky?

Over the last year, I have seen and heard of many organizations who have gone through similar growing pains. My hope for them is that like SVPM, they find a way to push through and have success. I believe that our world will never be like it was pre-COVID. One of the things we will see is more opportunities for remote project work. My experience as a member of SVPM has taught me that as long as we stay agile, Scrum will be successful in this new world we are living in.  Stay positive and safe everyone. 

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