04/09/2020
By
MJV Team

How agile practices can solve remote team management problems

How agile practices can solve remote team management problems

In this article, you will reflect on the challenges of remote team management and how agile practices can help you make the transition efficiently. Follow this!

Challenges of managing remote teams

One of the great challenges of remote team management is how to put all your employees on the same page, making them realize that they are working towards the same business objective. In cases such as this, transparency is key.

How to plan, monitor, and adjust the demands in your area, when your team is remote?

Here are the main challenges you’ll face:

Corporate culture

Company culture takes time to adapt to remote life. This involves hiring employees with the right profiles or developing new skills. It’s important to promote healthy communication and insist in accepting that this situation is long term.

In most cases, this requires a good change in the corporate mindset, employees can no longer work within the reach of their leader’s eyes, and that outdated mindset must be overcome. 

This can cause a generational shock; Millennials and Centennials, steeped in technology and more prone to remote work, are often misunderstood by their leaders from other generations.

Geographical distance

This is one of the most visible challenges. Coordinating a distributed team, often with members in different time zones, for example, is not a simple task. Organizing a work schedule, finding a routine and figuring out times when everyone can get together often can be quite a chore, especially during this transition.

Communication

Communication is the key to a team’s success. It is essential to gather information from all members and know what each person is working on.

When a team works remotely, it is not always easy to promote open communication – which leads to a relationship where everyone feels left out of the team.

For a moment, you might think that there are many tools today for people to communicate with, but this also poses a challenge. Having to choose between so many options can be daunting, the channel has to be easy to use and cause the least amount of static.

Control of activities and productivity

Do you know how much work your remote team does and at what rate? For many managers, the answer to these questions are not as clear as they should be. It is difficult to know whether someone is being underutilized or not pulling their own weight. Understanding productivity is more complex in this transition period, more so  due to the fact that people aren’t within reach… and that’s is only at the beginning.

Agile’s best practices to manage your team remotely

There are many agile methodologies incorporated in the management of even the most varied remote teams. The most popular, without a doubt, is SCRUM.

Here, we explore this idea a little more and give you some tips on how to manage remote teams using this framework. Check it out:

I work with Sprints

Sprints are the key to managing an Agile team.

Instead of setting goals by quarter or year, you break them down into smaller projects, ranging from 1 to 4 weeks.

How much time exactly? It depends on the preferences of your team and the nature of your work. Longer sprints are more difficult to plan, but easier to implement. The shorter ones keep the team more focused, but they can also be more stressful – you have to be very careful and switch between the two types, as needed.

 To start the sprint, first create a list of all the items that your team wants to accomplish in the near future (this will be your backlog).

Then, estimate how long each will take. It is important to be realistic about what you put in your sprint so that your team is not overwhelmed or bored. That said, it is likely that the first two sprints overestimate or underestimate what the team can accomplish. The key is to learn from these mistakes and adjust.

Finally, the team leader prioritizes the task list and selects the highest priority tasks to be included in the first sprint. Then, the team divides the tasks, estimates the time for each one and begins.

How to manage a sprint remotely? It depends on the individual needs of your team. This can be done in an Excel spreadsheet or in a task management tool – we recommend the latter.

→ Also check out:

Design Sprint: what it is and what are the advantages.

Design Sprint: what can it solve?

Regular check-ins

Planning is an important part of any agile practice, but no matter how carefully you plan obstacles, they will always be there. That is why it is essential to check in briefly during each sprint, as well as regularly .

A popular way to do this is with meetings – when with remote teams, use and abuse the tools available on the market (we’ll talk more about these in later posts). this is where main team members meet for 15 minutes every day at the same time. Each explains:

What was done yesterday,

What will be done today,

As well as the obstacles that were encountered or challenges solved (lessons learned that can help others).

These quick meetings are of dual importance: they hold people accountable and help identify problems earlier. They also help to promote team unity. With just an investment of 15 minutes of your day, you keep the team focused and guarantee your success.

Have a “cooler” to store ideas

Sprints, by nature, occur in a limited time. They require the team to prioritize the items they most want to accomplish in the coming weeks.

What about all the other tasks and goals that are not included in the sprint?

It is important to save these ideas in the “cooler” – a metaphor for a place, or repository, where you can store suggestions and / or alterations that you do not plan to work on right now.

Think of it as a list of items you can “dethaw” later or refer to at the next sprint planning meeting.

 Leaders and team members can submit ideas to the “cooler” at any time. In each round, the team will decide which suggestions are the most important and can be used.

→ It can be a great way to get the team to share more ideas without the discomfort of having to directly label them “non-priority”.

Sprint Retrospectives

Agile practices emphasize the importance of continuous improvement. A team can only reap the benefits of being agile if it is willing to constantly identify and execute ways in which to improve the process.

A sprint retrospective does just that. It is a meeting where the team frankly discusses how the sprint went and identifies improvements for the next cycle.

The key to the success of these meetings is transparency.

Unless everyone is sincere about the problems they are facing, it is impossible to improve.

If your team is managed in a more hierarchical structure, it can be more difficult to get subordinate employees to talk. Therefore, the meeting needs to be organized to encourage feedback from everyone. One solution is to send feedback anonymously before the meeting.

Data is another critical aspect of these meetings. It is important to develop meaningful metrics to measure the success of each sprint. These metrics need to translate directly into overall business success. The right path will depend on the role of the team and the nature of the business.

→ Read also: 6 tips for successful Remote Work Management!

Keep your team’s delivery volume distributed with agile practices

The Agile approach, born among software developers and increasingly incorporated into projects and teams from different areas, offers the ability to implement a clear structure that promotes iterative development, collaboration and a focus on quality and efficiency.

Agile practices have replaced excessively long, complicated and expensive work cycles.

Instead of months working on a product or updating it, the team can run a development cycle in days or even hours. Pushing new changes live (or within a test environment), testing them, learning what needs to be changed, and then iterating into a new cycle of activities.

These practices are faster, more efficient and more economical.

In terms of economics, in fact, they pair very well with remote teams – which also saves money, as well as efficiency – giving companies access to a larger set of talents, without restricting them to an hour of commuting from any office.

In short, agile practices translate into greater operational flexibility and competitive advantages. The result is a dynamic similar to what occurs in startups.

Among the gains promoted by agile approaches are:

1- reduction of bureaucracy and micromanagement in projects.

2- quick adaptation to changes in direction.

3- reduction of go-to-market time for projects, products or services.

4- elimination of waste through frequent testing and validation cycles.

How have you been leading remote team management? Go deeper into this theme; download our e-book Remote Transformation: how to restructure your operations in times of uncertainty

 

Ebook - Remote transformation- MJV Technology & Innovation

 

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