Top Five Concerns for Executives as Teams become a Remote Workforce

As more and more staff are adjusting towards working remotely, Executives and their programs and teams will need additional support to enable them to maintain productivity, to stay connected and engaged to deliver critical outcomes. At the same time, they need to adapt to changing business priorities as a result of the COVID-19.

This presents new challenges for Executives when program teams now are working remotely and distributed. Here are the top 5 concerns for Executives and how applying some of the agile practices , agile practitioners can help their leadership team address these challenges:

Pivoting to new and changing priorities 

Leadership is now urgently focusing on prioritising existing commitments and work in progress in line with the changed priorities the organisation is now facing as a result of COVID-19.  Implementation support for teams and programs will include:

  • Working with program leads to re prioritise the product backlog quickly using a backlog order approach such as WSJF or ROI which show value over cost to do the work. Existing work needs to be ordered against the new initiatives
  • Utilize patterns such as feature brief to estimate value and prioritize new features with just enough info to plan which features to write and refine first
  • Working with program delivery leads and teams to assess delivery capability and capacity to take on new work and determine which work may need to be put on hold or would require additional team resourcing to deliver
  • Providing product pipeline team with workshops to support refining scope. Utilising patterns such as story mapping to assist breaking down features and acceptance criteria

Maintaining productivity and delivery continuity to deliver priority and essential outcomes

The key concern is to minimise disruption to delivery, continue to deliver essential outcomes as well as new emerging initiatives, maintain productivity and ensure focus on high priority features. Implementation support for teams and programs will include:

  • Providing support guides to help teams now working remotely (technology tools, tips and how to guides for running agile events and PI planning remotely etc)
  • Working closely with agile teams to ensure greater transparency of their work in progress via digital tools
  • Working closely with agile teams to ensure earlier identification and resolutions of issues that are impeding team progress on a daily basis
  • Expediting feedback and learning of ‘inspect and adapt’ activities particularly where they put delivery at risk
  • Assessing and identifying teams that are more at risk when working remotely (tools such as AgileIQ). Coach and mentor the Scrum master and team to resolve difficulties experienced as teams’ transition to remote working
  • Working with teams to ensure that the delivery teams work on integration at scale to ensure end to end functionality delivered within the sprint

Reduction in transparency and visibility of work in progress

When moving to remote ways of working, the visibility  and transparency of of what’s happening across the program/s of work, the progress and what has been completed at any given time may be in jeopardy. Coaching support for programs and teams needs to focus on re gaining visibility and transparency including:

  • Working closely with agile teams to ensure greater transparency of their work in progress via digital board tools such as Jira, Trello, Asana etc.
  • Promoting alternatives to face-to-face communications and supporting teams to implement and use these digital tools such as Webex/Zoom/Google-Hangouts etc
  • Ensuring team are vigilant in keeping their team boards updated on a daily basis
  • Supporting Scrum Masters and program leaders to maintain current work practices across the program
  • Increasing communication utilising multiple channels to ensure all affected stakeholders are aware of progress, issues and changes.
  • Ensuring communications and decisions are clearly articulated on dashboards and electronic program and team boards
  • Working with teams to find new and innovative ways to share ideas on how to better communicate progress
  • Reiterating the importance for teams to keep the work management / collaboration tools up to date.
  • Assessing and implementing feedback loops to highlight areas where visibility is dropping or needs improvement
  • Ensuring that Risk/ Issues management processes are followed and captured

Remaining connected and ensuring communication channels support people and teams to remain engaged

Ensuring Teams remain connected, engaged and don’t feel isolated  is a key way that leadership can support teams to remain productive and high performing. Coaches can support leadership to address their communication concerns by:

  • Ensuring clear and regular communication of changes to work practices in remote working as they evolve and change
  • Gathering insights about team health and well-being, use online polls and pulse checks
  • Sharing best practice, guides and tips for staying connected online
  • Encouraging adherence to daily and sprint event cadence
  • Creating online opportunities for cross-team interaction
  • Promoting the use of consistent tools and forums to post and disseminate information
  • Facilitating and supporting online group review, showcase and demonstration sessions for broader stakeholders
  • Facilitating and sharing ideas for innovative, online social activity and fun (e.g. Virtual Happy Hour)
  • Prompting teams to socialise not just with direct team members but also across teams. This could prevent isolation and reverting back to siloed thinking and behaviour.
  • Ensuring people know who and where to go to for help.
  • Ensuring early identification of issues and escalation when things aren’t working
  • Doubling down on communication. Ensuring communication efforts are clear, consistent and well understood.

Diverting and re-deploying people to new and changing priorities within and across programs and teams without losing delivery momentum

With the huge change organisations are experiencing moving to remote ways of working, redistributing work over the available capability as well as on boarding new teams quickly with minimal disruption is critical. Agile coaching support in this instance moves towards supporting teams to cope at a time when they have change overload. Actions include:

  • Ensuring team processes and work items are clear and intuitive
  • Ensuring allocation of work over teams is transparent and clearly communicated by leadership
  • Reminding teams of importance of ensuring status of work is visible and transparent. Thus, enabling others to pick up work when and where needed (e.g. if need to go on unplanned leave or move teams etc)
  • Utilising blueprints for setting up new teams. Ensuring new team members are supported during onboarding, induction and training
  • Supporting Scrum masters to identify knowledge and skills gaps and work with them on ways to address gaps
  • Providing teams with visibility of agile resources especially for teams that are new to agile ways of working
  • Clarifying capacity and make work schedules visible and clear
  • Supporting teams to ensure that capacity related impediments are managed quickly and escalated if not resolved
  • Helping newly formed teams set up with simple agile practices through providing guides, checklists and infographics at point of need

Key to addressing these concerns will be for agile coaches to help Executives, their programs and teams to self-organise and work effectively as remote teams. Maintaining a focus on an agile mindset remains critical for teams as this will equip them to quickly shift gear and respond to changes in new priority work. Agile coaching can help executives implement the working from home guidelines and target efforts to coach and support remote programs and teams.

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