Making remote agile teams work for you

To survive market disruption, you need agility at scale with the right support for your remote teams to deliver with greater transparency.

Most enterprises struggle with faster time to market and ability to innovate. Their troubles are further compounded when managing remote teams. The key to successful business agility is in frameworks that support people and their interactions, not just implementing a digital tool.

How to make remote teams work

Create cross-functional, dedicated teams

Teams that have dedicated team members are 50% more successful. Cross-functional teams of 3-9 are successful because their overhead for communication is low. This supports rapid decision-making – an essential capability in this highly volatile COVID-19 world.

Rather than functional silos and teams based purely on a single capability, cross-functional, dedicated teams are designed to have all the capabilities they need to deliver with little dependencies on others. This reduces the overhead of waiting for others, waiting for approvals, and delays and slippage due to dependencies. Ultimately, small, cross-functional teams can pivot faster than large, complex project teams with inbuilt, functional silos.

Manage work from home (WFH) risks

When teams are remote, transparency suffers. The ability for managers to assign work and ensure that people are busy, happy and productive is significantly reduced.

Many managers and executives turn to turn-key digital products in an attempt to improve work visibility only to find the tools ineffective. Tools are ineffective, not because people don’t know how to use them, but because they don’t change people’s work behaviours. It’s work behaviours such as goal alignment and collaboration, along with connectedness and clear structures,  that need to change when people start to work remotely to provide transparency.

The most effective way to understand whether a current team is at risk and needs support to move to remote working or work from home is through using Agile IQ®.

ZXM’s Agile IQ® highlights the factors that help teams succeed when they move to remote work. With Agile IQ®, managers and executive are able to:

  • Identify teams most at risk that are moving to remote work.
  • Highlight distributed teams that need support to self-organise.
  • Advise you on actions to take and which teams most need your help and support.

For remote teams to operate successfully, they need:

  • Clear structure – what are the rules by which they’re expected to deliver as a team?
  • Goal clarity – why is the work they’re doing valuable?
  • Dependability – can they depend on each other to deliver to the deadlines set by the Product Owner?
  • Shared purpose – are they in it together as a team, or are they merely a collection of individuals working as work group?
  • Connectedness – we’re all human beings and have social needs, if these aren’t taken care of then team productivity can suffer.

Multitasking is ruining your productivity when you’re working remotely

De-stressing when you’re working from home with a brisk walk around the block is essential for productivity. There is, unfortunately, all the unwanted breaks. Notifications on your phone. Email alerts that have popped up. A tick-tock video that needs watching. Unfortunately, switching tasks for just a few seconds is ruining your productivity.

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Assessing capability of agile teams to either strive or stumble as remote virtual teams

The concern is that with remote working, we lose visibility and transparency and may not identify a problem till later down the track when a release or delivery is at risk. We analysed teams and provided executives with transparency of which teams we needed to target for coaching support and guidance to uplift the team’s ability to work remotely, remain cohesive as a team and deliver successfully.

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Manage delivery in remote teams through Product Owners

Traditionally, project managers and delivery managers are engaged to manage delivery, scope and timeframes. In an agile world, successful delivery of value is the responsibility of Product Owners. 

Often mistaken for the customer, a Product Owner is part of the agile team, not someone “borrowed” from business. They represent the needs of many customers and stakeholders, manage the budget, and set the vision and objectives for one or more products and/or services based on organisational strategy and goals.

Better together: Agile + Lean UX

How do you make Design Thinking, Lean UX, and Agile work together. Sprint 0? Design Sprints? Upfront design and planning tends to delay the delivery of value, so there must be a better way to use Scrum but also engage in discovery work at the same time without devolving into parallel design work. Integrating design, user research, and experimentation into Sprints is the key.

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How do I run Sprint Planning?

Sprint Planning is one of Scrum’s five events. There’s more to it than just making a plan. Importantly, as an action of empiricism, the team should be inspecting the Product Backlog and adapting, and creating, a Sprint Backlog that makes their plan to achieve the Sprint Goal, and deliver a potentially releasable Increment, transparent.

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Create "guiderails" for faster decision-making

Traditional decision-making processes slow when teams are remote – you no longer have the luxury of quickly calling people together to a meeting to discuss solutions and make an instant decision, or signing an approval on a piece of paper. 

A leader’s role in agile with remote teams is to establish strong rules for decision-making amongst teams and to decentralise sets of decisions to where the information is. This requires teams to have a clear understanding of the rules set for them to make decisions, collective ownership of delivery, ownership of value, and a set of governing principles regarding impediments that are out of their control to remove.

“Netiquette” for online meetings for remote and distributed teams

As with face-2-face meetings, online meetings also have an etiquette (“Netiquette”) to make them effective. One of the 12 principles of the agile manifesto suggests face-to-face is the best option but in today’s world of social distancing and WFH, it is no longer an option.

Here are the guidelines we have found useful for having for online meetings with distributed

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Worried about your remote teams?

Ask one of our agile experts to do a work from home (WFH) risk assessment now.