Leading remote agile teams was always going to be tricky, and like many leaders faced with the sudden shift to virtual team environments, you may be finding that it takes a while to refine the new ways of working. As a leader it is important to allow your agile teams a sense of autonomy while also being supportive and involved to understand issues and alay any concerns you may have regarding productivity now that teams are not in the office.
Implementing these 6 strategies can help leaders reduce team stress, address concerns about work progress, increase productivity for the teams, and restore and maintain healthy communication channels.
Establish a Collective Vision
One of the principal responsibilities of a leader is to ensure that the team fully understands what the business aims to achieve, why that is important, who it is and the outcome they are seeking. If the vision is coherent and consistent, this will help with the alignment of goals across the agile teams.
Encourage communication as much as possible to provide a shared understanding of purpose and goals. Whether it be between teams or between other departments within the business, such interaction and collaboration will help to bolster your employees’ wider understanding of how the meaningful work they do as an agile team, fits into the bigger picture for the organisation.
Bridge Distance Through Frequent Communications
One of the biggest challenges to remote working is how to stay connected with team members, maintain team culture, morale and motivation, run engaged meetings, track and communicate progress, and help the team focus on priorities. Encourage agile teams working remotely to communicate with each other frequently so they can exchange ideas, share experiences (good and bad) and maintain that sense of teams and shared purpose.
Online communication tools are now more available than ever and make sure teams make use of the technology to still achieve connectedness. Video conferencing is the richest source of virtual communication. Video and/or verbal communication versus email also removes the element of misinterpretation of messaging.
Check-ins as a team each day at the daily scrum is a much more productive than simply setting a sprint goal and simply asking team members to get in touch as needed. As leaders, proactively managing the frequency of connection with teams will also help keep your finger on the pulse, especially where teams may be hesitant to reach out.
Agile teams are self organisation and empowered so ensure that when sourcing new candidates, look for those who are self-motivated, dependable, independent and good at communicating. You should be focusing as much on the right agile team fit based on principles and values as well as capability and expertise.
Provide Stability Through Scrum Events
In these times of global unpredictability and constant change, the scrum events can provide predictability and structure. Now is not the time to abandon agile practice, in fact it is more relevant that ever before. Agile teams are able to respond to change and better manager complexity and unpredictability by maintain the discipline of scrum practice.
Scrum Events are a important way to help team’s learn and remain focused on goals as each event has a clear intent and point of inspection and adaptation. Maintaining Transparency and ensuring team remain connective and collaborate whilst working remotely is a key factor in their ability to self organise and remain a high performing team.
For example, the daily scrum 15-minute check-ins allow the scrum team to discuss and establish a plan for the day; opening a meeting by having everyone share one word to describe their current state of mindfulness, or a theme for the sprint review and retrospective, such as everyone wears a hat. By creating stability and maintaining good scrum practice even as a remote agile team, fosters a sense of connection, safety, and fun, even while their teams are buffeted by the forces of change.
Delegate to the Agile Teams
Any decision that must be escalated to higher levels of authority introduces a delay. As leaders, the importance of responsiveness and be able to act with agility in the face of business threats, changes in stakeholder needs, disruption, and seize market opportunities. To do this rapidly and effectively requires decisions to be delegated to where the knowledge of the context and issue is greatest.
If leading multiple teams at scale, then it not realistic to be involved in all the day to day time critical team level decisions on how to do the work . That’s why as a leader, delegation to teams on the decisions within their area of expertise and level of maturity as a team, is especially important when teams are working remotely or working as distributed team spread across different offices.
The role of management is to establish a framework for making decisions over making the decision for teams. Where the decision is far reaching, though, there may be times in which the decision should be centralised.
Provide Clear Boundaries
Agile frameworks create a paradigm that establish a clear structure for making decisions and operating as a scrum team. As a leader provide the guide rials for operation so that the team is clear on their responsibilities, decision making delegation and scope to develop the solution that is in line with the product vision.
Some team members might not desire frequent connection as they continue to adjust to the new ways of working whilst others may want more time than team engagement capacity allows. Encourage teams members to be transparent about their availability and what boundaries as a team they want to set.
It’s important to trust the team to self manage their time effectively and are making their fellow team members aware of constraints that may mean they are not working during the day due to other responsibilities when working from home. This helps the team to understand capacity and plan around these constraints as a team.
Acknowledge Team and Provide Feedback
The subtleties of nonverbal communication may be lost when teams are working remotely, even with the videoconferencing turned on. Acknowledge the team’s need for recognition and good news is even more important when going through times of change and the current stressors of uncertainty. Reserve time at the end of each scrum event to provide specific, positive feedback for good work (not just great work) as expressing your appreciation as a leader can help soothe a lot of disruptive discomforts. Encourage the scrum team to allow time for appreciation and kudos in their retrospectives.
Providing timely corrective feedback before shortfalls in performance become substantial as small and frequent performance guidance may circumvent major corrections down the road and allows everyone to stay in sync despite distance and daily change.
While the swift shift to remote ways of working can cause stress and many disruptions to daily activities, it is important as a leader to support the agile teams by removing as many barriers to forward momentum as possible. By communicating a clear vision, and encouraging frequent communication and providing clear boundaries can help your team members feel better connected and remain focused and productive.