Safety for Authenticity

How do we foster environments that make everyone feel safe so they can have an equal voice in the process?

“Reading the room” is hard enough when you’re doing a sprint in person, and in the remote-first world, it’s near impossible for us mere mortals. Our group explored ways to foster psychological and emotional safety in remote sprints. These intentional tactics create an environment where everyone feels included and are designed to make a sprint more collaborative, enjoyable, and successful.

The Challenge

In a remote-first world, establishing and fostering psychological and emotional safety during the sprint process can be more difficult, and we aren't able to lean on the "shortcuts" of a shared location, in-person tools or body language.


When participants feel safe, we can be more authentic, creative, and collaborative, resulting in better sprint outcomes.

The Approach

The team created a Safety Manual that provides guidance for the following stages of team collaboration.

Set the stage for intentional intimacy:

  • Establish shared goals for sprint
  • Conduct 1:1 pre-interviews with participants and key stakeholders
  • Assign buddies and have them connect before the sprint
  • Send 3 prompt questions that are intimate and allow for conversations, and use them as ice breakers during the sprint

Vocalize values & recognize privilege:

  • Make shared agreements on feedback and process
  • Curate lightning talks to represent diverse topics and/or perspectives
  • Use prompts to shake out of individual perspectives
  • Incorporate "walk in their shoes" exercises
  • Role model by encouraging active listening and balanced participation

Support diversity in convergence:

  • Provide multiple voting options
  • Support equal voting power among participants
  • Reserve sufficient time, avoid rushing through at the end of sprint
  • Revisit user needs and shared sprint goals to reset before voting
  • Consider the risks in potential solutions
  • Provide enduring home for divergent ideas
Positionality method to use with teams (The Conversation Factory)