Niko-Niko practice during COVID-19 Pandemic

Have you heard of VUCA?

VUCA — Volatility — Uncertainty — Complexity — Ambiguity

Volatile — The environment demands one to react quickly to ongoing changes that are unpredictable and out of control

Uncertain — The environment requires one to take action without certainty

Complex — The environment is dynamic, with many interdependencies

Ambiguous — The environment is unfamiliar, outside of one’s expertise

COVID-19 Pandemic has reassured us that the environment we live in is VUCA and is the new normal. Life in my IT division is no different. Fight against Pandemic within the organization started from IT with the help of leaders. Business continuity was the need of the hour. The New business case emerged — Remote Working Setup (RWS)


Sum of all variables that create business results — Business Continuity in the organization


A change in human behaviour that drives business results — Remote Working Set-up in the organization


Increments of delivery that generate outcomes — Activities ranging from issuing accessories to taking care of business continuity of on-premise servers

Setting up remote working is a nightmare for people who have never experienced carrying even an office accessory home. Yet, the team worked round the clock to meet almost all the needs for an RWS. Name it, and it is done!

The Business CASE:

  • Business needs shifting by the hour
  • Close to 2000 people who have never experienced remote working has to start working from home at the earliest
  • Extremely short windows for decision making and execution

How can it be possible?

Be Agile. As simple as that. Easier said than done!

“Being Agile” doesn’t mean throwing all rules and processes out of the window. However, being Agile does mean working in a highly responsive way to deliver your services in the way the business wants and when the business needs them.

  • The team evidenced it, through the following
  • Decentralized problem solving & execution [Self-Organization within the boundaries]
  • Collaborations with various groups — Right from transport team to deliver RWS set up to the door-step
  • Flexible work patterns
  • Leveraging the best of local capabilities

When the COVID situation emerged, we were in the middle of a two-week iteration. We had cancelled the sprint and started working on the COVID preparedness. It was chaos.

A simple Kanban board was set up on a glass wall and used as a medium to visualize the flow of work to achieve the outcome.

Then to make it transparent to the team, we used JIRA and created a new cadence with an agreed time-box.

Then to make it transparent to the team, we used JIRA and created a new cadence with an agreed time-box.

The team moved away from

  • Two-week iterations with a fortnight planning to a Daily iteration with Daily planning
  • Committing a goal for two weeks to need of the hour commitment (Pull based work)
  • Fortnight Retrospective to a Daily check-in

Niko-Niko Calendar

Daily business update calls were set up at the beginning of the day for any official updates. It served its purpose. For more than a week, this call was filled with problem-solving.

With so much happening around, there was little thinking on personal well-being. We took a step back and reflected on ourselves.

Empathy is a virtue. We tried being kind to ourselves. We decided to look back at ourselves and see how we were feeling. I shared the Niko-Niko practice with the leadership group. Initially, there was hesitance to do this, as we weren’t aware of how everyone will take this.

There were even thoughts if it is safe to ask how everyone was feeling in an open forum.

At the start of the third week, a short zoom poll was rolled out to sense people’s emotions in the last week. Again, it had good responses, with people opening up.

The next day, we tried out the zoom annotation option on an emoji wall. This time, it was informal and asked people to mark the feelings they are going through and talk about it (Niko-Niko calendar from M3.0 practice). People opened up a bit more, and responses were good. We continued the second option from then on. Initial days we still had a few talking about business updates. But over time, it was close to completely informal.

Now the business update call transformed to a Daily well-being check-in. When teammates shared personal things daily, people become aware of their differences and similarities, which improved trust and empathy. Also, this helped the leadership group help individuals in need by giving personal attention.

On a lighter note, we even started inheriting few physical stretches, eye exercises for the first 3–5mins, before Niko-Niko practice.

Some of the evidence is that the Niko-Niko check-in is going well.

One of the colleagues felt this check-in lifts their feeling for the day.

Courtesy: Internet

This is my own experience with Niko-Niko; I would leave it to individuals to try based on their environment as we believe you are the judge and jury of your environment.

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