COVID-19 impact on Kuzzle: everything has changed, but nothing has changed

The Coronavirus disease continues to spread around the world. More and more governments enforce social distancing, hoping to slow down the virus propagation, to prevent the saturation of their healthcare systems.

That's the case in France, where these measures have been in effect for two weeks now.

For Digital teams, this usually means a lot of changes, accompanied by many crucial questions: how do we properly work remotely? how do we acquire new remote working habits? How do we share information? how do we communicate between team members? what tools shall we use to collaborate? And so on.


These changes are huge. A veritable big bang.
… or is it not?

Remote working: Business As Usual

Here at Kuzzle, remote working is our bread and butter. Although our head office is located in Montpellier France, some team members are working from abroad, in multiple time zones.
Even for those living near Montpellier, working from home is accepted and a common place.
The biggest change is that some of us had to arrange a permanent desk at home.



Other than that, we have been accustomed to remote working habits since Day 1 of the company:

  • We heavily use Slack to discuss between us and with our clients
  • Our work processes are designed with remote working in mind
  • Our meetings are performed with video-conferencing tools. Even with a deaf person in our teams, with the right tools, this works quite well
  • Our internal meeting notes are shared in a private Github repository. Notes involving clients are written and shared using Google Drive
  • We use Trello for our boards (product roadmap, retrospective, …), and Jira to organize our tickets
  • We set up a private Discord server to allow us to freely discuss anything, at any given time
  • Our main core product software is Open Source and follows all the remote community development best practices with transparent and open online contribution processes 



Project & Team Management: nothing changes

It has only been a few days, but I have already heard firsthand managers deploying restrictive measures (and sometimes harsh ones) toward their employees.

Probably because those managers want to make sure their teams continue to operate correctly during these anxious times, without knowing exactly how to control them remotely and correctly. Probably also because of a lack of trust.

At Kuzzle, almost nothing has changed. Our teams have been self-organised agile teams: our top management lets us decide collectively what our priorities are, what resources should be allocated to client projects, how our time should be divided between different tasks, and so on.
And we regularly synchronize between ourselves, and with our management, on strategic objectives, issues, deadlines, processes... We are all part of the decision process.

Moreover, we had plenty of time prior to this situation to experiment and train with how our self-organization should work.

What this means is that, for us, social distancing hasn't change the way we work: everyone knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
And when we don't, we all know how to fix that, calling for meetings when necessary, asking the right questions to the right people, and so on.

In other words, our processes make our teams highly resilient. Kuzzle would operate normally even if our managers were rendered unable to work.

About them: they simply inquired about what our resources were, they made sure we took the necessary actions, they asked if there were anything that could be done to allow us to continue to work, and they helped with that.


Empowerment and involvement

A few words about my very personal experience about management: you usually get what you sow.
When managers treat their employees as mindless drones, they then get mere executants, who lack a sense of initiative and responsibility.

And if such a manager is unable to give orders or exert control, then their teams rapidly feel lost.

But when managers empower their employees, giving them responsibility over their processes and actions, then they obtain, mechanically, responsible teams, able to act even in the absence of explicit instructions, and in unusual situations.
Doing so requires trust in their employees. But in return, said employees also feel involved, and since they have to work together, they are supportive to each other.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: Kuzzle teams are empowered, self-organised, and we already are accustomed to working remotely. So, even in the face of this unusual, exceptional situation, we're still operating smoothly and normally.

Our clients will have their Kuzzle projects delivered on time and our full support for their product installation, Kuzzle backend will continue to be updated with exciting features, and this whole article is just a very lengthy way of saying: "we are just fine".


Sébastien Cottinet

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