Agile is a framework employed by organizations across the globe to become more efficient, nimble and customer-centric. Co-location is core to agile methodologies because it maximizes the team’s ability to communicate in person. However, with the current pandemic forcing businesses to shift employees to remote working, teams may find it harder to sustain best practice. Having led agile transformation programs for many organizations with distributed teams, we thought we’d share our advice on how companies can support their self-isolating employees while maintaining their One Team values.
Enforce agile practices
Teams across your organization should use the same agile practices and rigor when working from home as they would when co-located, and there should be a common understanding and agreement on what these standards are. This might mean setting time aside for all agile ceremonies, from virtual daily stand-ups to show and tells and retrospectives, or introducing daily check-ins to keep team members connected with their leaders. Your scrum masters should reinforce the use of these practices to make sure projects stay on track and everyone remains on the agility agenda.
Manage even workloads
Maintaining relatively even workloads across the team is just as important when working remotely, so businesses should consider disparity between the environments of their employees and the effect this may have on their productivity. Less technologically able colleagues may initially struggle to get to grips with remote working platforms, and not everyone will be set up with a fully fitted out home office. Wi-Fi is another possible restriction – most people have bandwidth for personal use rather than professional needs, so you can expect an increase in technical glitches.
There’s a reason that working in the same space is core to agile methodologies; the best communication is arguably face to face, with communications occurring through facial expression, body language, intonation and words. That’s why we always emphasise the importance of overcommunication. Employees should be encouraged to be visible and reachable, and not just by email. Seeing someone via video conferencing does a lot to bridge the gap between teams. And if you are away from your desk, in a meeting or at lunch, then update your Skype or Teams status so others can quickly ascertain when they can, or cannot, contact you.
Use tools to improve collaboration
In order to make overcommunication possible, businesses should look for innovative methods to engage virtually with their teams. Most organizations will already be versed in video conferencing platforms such as Skype and WebEx. But to remain truly agile, you’ll need solutions to replace the physical agile artifacts. Consider solutions like Jira, Office 365, virtual whiteboards and virtual sticky notes to support your agile ceremonies and help people collaborate and exchange ideas.
Empower your team
Your team should still feel just as empowered to freely challenge, oppose, query, and give constructive feedback to their colleagues as they would if they were sat next to them. To build a culture of openness, which is a fundamental part of the agile framework, encourage team members to have less formal 1:1 video sessions, where they can get to know one another outside the confines of work. Most people still think of video conferencing as scheduled time, but using video chat for spontaneous casual conversation is a great way to increase trust, communication and openness.
We know from experience that the benefits of agile working can still be realized in remote teams. In fact, implementing these working practices now may even bring stronger results in the long term, building a business which is truly equipped to cope with disruption – both now and in the future.
Associate Partner, Infosys Consulting
Shaun has been at Infosys Consulting since 2012, heading up our Agile European Center of Enablement and our Agile Transformation horizontal practice. Over his 30 years of experience in financial services, he has led large-scale organizational agility and change management projects for prominent businesses – most notably a global cards and payments provider and a leading UK retail bank.