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How meeting face to face builds team trust

As a business analyst consulting at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) in Charlottetown partnered with the Canadian Digital Service, it’s been challenging to join an in-progress project when teams are located in different cities. Even with a daily remote standup, you don’t get to know who everybody is, and it’s hard to match a voice to a name when you’ve never met.

A team trip to Ottawa changed all of that.

We all left the Charlottetown VAC office on different flights but arrived at CDS building in Ottawa within a half hour of each other. We were met by Steve Astels who was there to sign us in. One of the mysterious developers now had a face.

After a quick tour, we started utilizing the space and got to work sketching out a plan for the week on the wondrous wall-sized whiteboard. The afternoon activities kicked off with a team lunch at a nearby restaurant. Two agile teams on a collaborative project benefit from face time. It builds on trust.

Team members smile for a photo while sitting at a large table in a restaurant.

The next two days were spent with a series of breakout sessions based on role shadowing, where VAC personnel paired with their related counterparts in CDS. Our teams both come from different backgrounds and as such our roles don’t mirror perfectly. There were some last minute invites and plenty of cross-sharing as the two teams continued to feel each other out.

Leon must have a twin because somehow he was able to be everywhere at once. Or so it seemed. His dedication towards the project is apparent in his genuine sincerity and work ethic.

Tommy and I were able to experiment with collaboration tools that we could take back to Charlottetown, and Sarah settled right in with two of the developers named Steve. (Yes, there are more Steves on this project than you can shake a stick at! There are even honorary Steves.)

Usability testing took place on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon and I have to say that in all my years in project development, actually sitting with the end-user was a most enlightening experience. Live user testing is like no other. I got to take notes while Mithula conducted the interview. She created a relaxed environment and encouraged the user to talk about what this testing experience was like. She didn’t interfere but rather encouraged feedback of expectations and results. I would also add that Mithula’s interview skills were amazing.

Throughout the week there were plenty of side chats and side projects. Developers were able to present their work and answer questions. There was a growing sense of cohesion as we worked together in this open agile environment. By Friday we were a team.

The team members all stand together and smile for a photo.

Back in Charlottetown, the 15-minute standups don’t seem so remote anymore. Though team members are in Toronto, Ottawa, and Charlottetown, we all have the same goal to build on what we learned from each other in hopes of providing user-centred design in the Government of Canada.