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  • Best Practices Learned In Virtual Development At SMU Guildhall

    - Steve Stringer

    Learned Best Practices:

    Here's the good stuff. We've collected a set of best practices we learned in the past two weeks. Hopefully this helps you, too:

    • Call and Response: Our 6 producers have their sub-teams check in two or three times a day, depending. Each person Slacks what they're working on and sends a screenshot of their work. This keeps folks accountable, and it also lets those of us at the exec level graze the information passively to keep up on what's going on.
    • Assume nothing. Be explicit in your Zoom meetings. If you're talking to/or about someone, use their name. Over-use reflective listening to ensure you understood what people are saying. Also be explicit about action items: Who is responsible? Who is following up? What are the deliverables? How will we know it's done?
    • Be super-, extra-, triple-explicit about your Definitions of Done. It is almost a given that two people to have a conversation in Zoom or Slack and be coming from two completely different sets of understanding without realizing it. Again, reflective listening and explicit coverage of action plans helps.
    • It's a requirement that all cameras are on in Zoom meetings. This keeps people accountable and present. We also require they wear pants. Really. This helps maintain a sense of professionalism and literal hygiene on the team.
    • Pin daily schedules in your team's Slack channel with embedded links. Giving everyone on the team an idea of the times and virtual places they needed to be in is critical.
    • Get in the habit of providing links to zoom meetings frequently and redundantly. In other words, don't make people dig. Instead of "Meeting's starting, y'all" (we're in Texas), be explicit: "Team Meeting now:"
    • Record and share everything. Relevant to not having situational awareness and not being able to attend multiple meetings at once, reviewing recorded meetings is the next best thing we found. Zoom's cloud recording feature is a godsend here.
    • Check in often. This isn't on the team level (though we check in often there too). I'm talking about personal wellness checks for everyone. We're in this together, and it's a scary time for many. The power of simply checking in and letting people vent goes a long way to keeping overall morale up and staying positive as a team.
    • Provide a way for teammates to commune and just "be" together. To facilitate this, we encourage team members who aren't bouncing from meeting to meeting to host a Zoom meeting of their own where their coworkers can join. This approximates what it was like to work together at a table or in a workgroup. It's not perfect, but it provides a little bit of a psychological safety net, especially for those who are living alone.

    Still to be Sorted Out:

    We still haven't found a good way to do multiplayer testing or playtest sessions. We're exploring Zoom's shared screens, but it's hard to talk and play and control the game volume in Zoom. Introducing Twitch and Discord might seem like a natural solution, but then you get away from the group aspect afforded by Zoom. We're figuring it out still.

    So there you go. I hope this helps. Share your best practices in the comments below.

    Stay safe, and be well. We'll see you when this is all over.


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