Most of us who have successfully implemented Agile processes in our development teams and beyond understand that while Agile is great in theory it’s not without challenges when it comes to apply it in practice.
Agile by definition is a discipline that involves following a consistent pattern for team delivery set within a clear, repeatable structure designed to: streamline progress, help to quickly identify issues and resolutions, minimize confusion, and allow for frequent communication, resulting in maximized efficiency for the team.
Agile is best practiced with teams co-located with customer or business experts, which enables the high level of communication, interaction, and collaboration needed to iterate quickly. Shifting to having the team work remotely introduces a new set of challenges which require both enforcing and adapting Agile principles.
Here are our top Dos and Don’ts for supporting your Agile Enterprise team maintain velocity and retain the clarity, consistency and repeatability of delivery.
DO work to maintain trust within the team. Trust is an essential element of successful Agile teams, so preserving it is a key objective as team leader or manager. When people are remote it’s essential to reinforce the network of trust between team members and identify and resolve internal disagreements or points of tension.
Maintaining the team’s delivery cadence and daily standups are a key part of ensuring people are still on track, but it’s much harder to pick up on small behavioral cues. This can at least be partially addressed through ad hoc 1:1 check-ins, and asking the open, non-judgmental questions to elicit honest feedback.
DON’T assume the worst. When people are remote and during a time of national crisis and disruption, there are many valid reasons why team members may miss meetings or be struggling to maintain their velocity. Assuming that someone is shirking or not committed and responding as such can rapidly undermine trust, especially it may really be your own anxiety about not being “in control”.
DO keep your established Daily Scrum or Stand-Up. Retaining the daily stand-ups as short, focused sessions for the team to catch up on everyone's progress and address roadblocks is a central part of Agile. Moving these meetings online is a great way to preserve good discipline and keep everyone accountable and able to get help when they need it.
We suggest adding 5 minutes to your daily time limit, so if you have a typical 15-minute stand-up, for example, schedule 20-minute standups. This factors in the kind of connection or technical difficulties which can slow everyone from joining the webchat or conference call, and also allows for some of the much-needed social chitchat which keeps team relationships strong.
Consider having team members turn on their video so they can see each other and helps keep people focused, as the visual connection can help make the meeting feel more personal. A good approach is to discuss with the team about setting norms for meetings, and then formally incorporating the outcome into the team charter.
DON’T start micromanaging. The point of the daily scrum is so that you can get the high-level updates you need. Don’t let anxiety that your team isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing cause you to start overly checking in and/or managing employees’ every move.
DO tighten up meeting discipline to ensure time is well spent. A major part of retain the established cadence and structure of delivery as much as you can, if needed, implement new structure and processes to make remote working as controlled as possible. For example, it’s important to make sure everyone has a meeting format to abide by: what’s the objective of the meeting, agenda for the meeting, major decisions made in the meeting, and post-meeting deliverables.
Additionally, as with the Daily Check ins, consider whether adding video is useful. Some meetings will be more about sharing screens, and so the camera might not be as valuable.
DON’T make everything be a meeting. While you will probably need more meetings than you usually do, standard best practices for implementing Agile help get rid of unnecessary meetings, don’t bring unnecessary meetings back. Instead, use messaging or short calls to check in on team members if essential.
DO maintain visibility across your project. As a manager or team leader you still need to have visibility into the bigger picture of what’s moving forward and getting accomplished. If you’re not already doing so, there are great project tracking and project management tools, like Jira, Asana, Trello, etc. that can help you get visibility into the bigger picture of a project.
DON’T forget to be human. While adapting team practices and avoiding micromanaging can be a challenge, it's also essential to remember to allow flexibility during what is a challenging time for many people. Every second can’t be strictly focused on work, and it’s essential to keep team members motivated and productive.
This is a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone. By simply allowing there to be space to have conversations about that ultimately keeps people more at ease and able to focus on the task at hand.
DO Take time with individual employees in one-on-one sessions to have a chat about what’s going on with them and be well-informed about the current global situation so you can offer helpful input and point them towards helpful articles when necessary.
Remember, this is unchartered waters for all of us. A lot of your employees may suddenly be having to balance working at home in addition to being a teacher for their children and a caregiver for family or loved ones at this time. People have a lot on their plate and it’s important to recognize that.
Making sure the human element is present in your agile structured remote team is important in maintaining a coherent and productive team. While these suggestions are intended to help you keep your team on task, first and foremost it’s YOUR team and together you can best work out what will be right for your project and situation.
If you’re looking for more guidelines for agile, check out our Agile Practitioner’s Guide here: https://www.teamrg.com/agile-practitioners-guide
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