Ranger4 DevOps Blog

Welcome to our remote pub..

Posted by Philippa Hale on Thu, May 21, 2020 @ 09:05 AM

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Our pub has been running weekly for a month now, so time for a retrospective, plus tips on how YOU can set up rich, engaging and energizing knowledge share forums that people enjoy and come back to.


Join us on Thursdays at 5pm BST for a (remote) coffee or a cold beer




The format is similar to a Lean Coffee or Open Forum, where participants arrive, connect with each other, go off to ‘pub tables’ in groups of 5 or so (Zoom breakout groups).  They then propose and vote on topics they wish to discuss in the time window and get going. Finally we regroup, share the highlights and chat.  




On two of the sessions, people were keen to stay on beyond the hour, so we continued into ‘lock-in’ time.  This was amazing, as everyone said at the (5pm) start that they were ‘zoomed out’ and tired.  The Pub re-energised us all!


A group of people who had never met before, working remotely, managed to generate in just one hour, a relaxed, positive mood in which we got creative, listened attentively and shared experiences generously.  


Specific comments from pub participants


  • The sift.ly tool mini survey at the start was great – informative, gave the context, something different
  • Drove very rich conversations at the pub tables, with smaller groups
  • Some structure actually gave us more freedom to talk about what mattered to us
  • Learned loads, and great to repeat the mini survey over time, as it gives the team a ‘neutral way’ of talking about some of the issues they are facing, using the shared language from the survey rather than ‘you said’, or ‘you always’ or ‘they never’.


Question therefore:  How did we achieve this together, and how to get a similar level of energy and focus in teams in your workplace? 


Top tips from the group are listed below, plus references.  If you look at them together, they show that – surprise surprise – its about HOW you manage, facilitate, guide and work with people, not just about the tasks. 

How to manage your remote team working better

It’s partly about making very small adjustments to the language you use and partly about how you plan and manage the remote working time. You don’t just rock up and start working. 


The remote pub session is actually very carefully structured into a planned sequence of very short sessions, with a specific purpose.  Going through these activities in this sequence helps people to work and think in different ways, without ‘being taught how’.  They just do it. 


All meetings and working sessions can be thought through and structured in this way. What you include in your sessions will depend on what works for you and your teams.


Some specific techniques to get you started


Give a structure to the first conversation by saying something like: working remotely on all these tools can be tiring and tricky at times, so let’s spend a few minutes agreeing HOW we work before we start the work.  


Give an example, from your own experience: ‘I have found that x works well’  (not ‘We will’, or ‘I want you to’, or ‘We must all …).  You can then give people 2 minutes to capture their suggestions on the Zoom chat, or in Sift.ly.  Then review the output together.


Try these questions:


‘Our best remote team working would be like what?’


‘And what would you like to have happen?’


‘And what else is important to you?’


Here are some of the answers from our remote pub table groups:



  • What's ok to say and not say – be clear
  • Cabin fever – acknowledge how we are feeling, allow some time for this
  • Upskilling – need to feel we’re learning something
  • Ensuring we feel like a team still
  • 15 mins 'chat' – we’re real people, not just getting through the work, even when things are really busy
  • Time zones, be respectful
  • We will be liking this much more in the future. Maybe 1/3 of the office may stay like this?
  • But then be clear on the role of the manager – facilitate, coach, support, mentor, guide, continually clarify the goals and direction, then get out of the team’s way
  • How to keep the teams occupied and motivated. This approach works!
  • Hard to see the body language. In a workshop someone stands up with the pen - the motivation and banter is important.  Especially with large groups.
  • 1st challenges were making sure the remote tools were working. Now it’s about making sure people come together and don't feel isolated (aware of kids, pets etc.) working longer hours - needs to be managed.    In some countries it's (The impact of Covid-19) really serious (Italy, US, parts of the UK), Some people’s more casual attitudes can be quite offensive or hurtful), or black humour doesn’t translate culturally.
  • It really does affect their performance, important to acknowledge the realities. Even if people have lost loved ones.
  • Be there for them. As a manager.  A bit more listening.
  • Taking the time to share tools and techniques in real time – we didn’t just mention them, we pulled them up on screen to have a look
  • Screen time is exhausting - need to balance with other activities. We are now on screen, ‘performing’, and can see self - blend video and phone.  Save video for some topics.  We all turned our videos off to try it!
  • Result of the experiment? (Switching it off and continuing the conversation): its more relaxing not being on video – the difference was dramatic!
  • Great for the eyes and frees up, feel less self-conscious
  • Tools like Mural and sift.ly where everyone can take part actively in the brainstorming and posting stickies!
  • Energy and creativity - High energy people (E) people are creative in different environments to people with more internal, quieter energy (I) preferences get their energy - Team energy - zoom gives some people energy, others find it draining, - structure energizes some people, brainstorming energizes others. You need a balance.



Join us for the next pub! 

Join us on Thursdays at 5pm BST for a (remote) coffee or a cold beer


Would you like your own remote pub?

If you are interested in a free ‘remote pub’ session or ‘lean café’ session for your company, on a topic of your choice, get in touch and we will gladly discuss how to help your team to do their best work remotely.


References: links and tools

Why Zoom time is exhausting.  A great article from the BBC that drills into this topic.

Bernd Vogel - Team Energy, all about whether your leadership style and energy generates the best energy in your teams.

Myers Briggs and team energy – plus our best leading, learning and working styles.  As a leader, how to become more aware of people’s learning and working styles, and which ways of working help them to work at their best, remotely or face-to-face.

The Ranger4 team use different facilitation techniques. The three facilitation questions suggested above come from Judy Rees’ Clean Language.  (The link is to a short video, we also recommend the book of the same name).

Mural or miro  (remote ‘whiteboard’ walls with wide ranging functionality & templates, can integrate to MS Teams, Jira cards, Github, Slack, Azure, Asana …etc.)

Sift.ly  (a set of interactive activities to plug into any workshop, meeting, conference)

Sli.do  (a conference/meeting Q&A tool)

Product vision statement (a tool to help with the development of new products)