Communication strategies for remote agile teams

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, remote working is becoming more and more the norm. While agile teams are starting to settle into remote working, leaders find themselves challenged in ensuring their agile teams remain engaged. Engagement is critical as engaged teams and team members will more likely be more productive and achieve their goals.

Currently, there are many forces aligned against quality remote agile team engagement. It becomes very easy for team members to to disconnect and for collaboration and engagement levels to to drop. As a leader, now is the time to lead by example and encourage effective communication activities that promote quality. But what do leaders need to change and do differently to communicate effectively during a pandemic with their remote agile teams?

Effective communication is about valuable outcomes

Effective communication leads to outcomes such as creating a shared understanding, providing goal clarity,  inspiring team members, or improving employee engagement. These outcomes are normally achieved by a range of agile team interactions ranging from Scrum events, large program planning events and communiqués, to corridor conversations or a comment to the person physically sitting next to them.

Replacing the communication activities with an email, won’t likely achieve the intended outcomes. Email is a great communication channel as a reference or as a confirmation of a certain message but is not an ideal medium for effective communication. It is a lesser medium and should be avoided as the primary method of sharing information. It is likely the organisation has already or is working hard towards enabling online connectivity and now has a suite of collaboration tools like face-to-face video conferencing, chat channels and screen sharing. It is important to understand which medium to use for effective communication and understand which mediums are less effective.

A call to leaders: Challenge your own comfort zone.

Consider the outcome to be achieved and then deliberately choose the best suited communication channels to achieve that message in the organisation:

  • Creating shared purpose, understanding and goal clarity: organise a virtual meeting to talk through context and purpose or record a video. This can be combined with an email communication with a slide deck and/or a live Q&A-session;
  • Gathering progress updates and managing risk issues and dependencies on the work: organise virtual meeting combined with an email communication confirming what has been discussed;
  • Growing connectedness between agile team members: organise regular virtual informal coffee catch ups over video conference;
  • Continuous coordination of work during the day: creating a dedicated chat channel at program level and team level so people can communicate during the day with short messages. When there are longer conversations needed, encourage people to do a phone call or video chat;
  • One-on-one check-ins with team members: check in more often with an individual over shorter time slots in informal and formal online catch ups. Consider the use of chat, phone and/or video conferencing;

Continue to encourage employees to use the online collaboration tools available to them and continuously inspect and adapt based on experience and feedback. For formal meetings consider introducing Netiquette cards to help overcome the online issues remote agile teams may be facing, and provide Tips for Running Scrum Events Remotely 

Preparing to achieve an outcome in a remote world, is much more complex than just just scheduling a meeting and sending an email. When planning for remote communication consider defining the actual outcomes to achieve first and then deliberately choose the right combination of communication channels.

We are curious to hear what worked for you, please get in touch and share your experience.

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