Remote Team Management and Agile Practices
Managing remote teams can be challenging, but it also provides numerous opportunities.
Challenges of managing remote teams
Everyone has their own personal habits and SOPs when it comes to working from home. One of the biggest challenges behind managing remote teams is simply getting all of your employees on the same page. Transparency is critical in this scenario.
Company culture takes time to adapt to remote work. The quickest path is to hire employees with the right profiles or develop new skills within your organization and promote healthy communication.
In most cases, this requires change within the corporate mindset. Employees need to get used to working unsupervised.
This can cause a generational shock. Millennials and Zoomers find it easy to switch over to a 100% digital environment, while their older bosses struggle and undervalue remote work.
This is one of the most visible challenges. Coordinating distributed teams, often within different time zones. Organizing work schedules, fixing routines, and finding shared meeting times can be a lot of work, especially during transition.
Communication is the key to success for remote teams. Gathering information on project progression is critical. It’s not always easy to promote open communication within remote teams.
You might think that there are so many ways to connect online, how is communication still an issue? The problem comes down to an overabundance of choice, and every team member having their own preference.
Activity and Productivity Control
One of the biggest issues for managers is knowing just how much their team members are working. Are they being given too much work to complete in too little time? Are some of them being underutilized? These questions can be incredibly difficult for managers to answer without a line of sight to their team members.
Best Agile Practices for managing your team remotely
There are many different frameworks within Agile, and while all of them are useful for organizing your team, the best one for remote management by far is SCRUM.
Working on 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 1-4 weeks.
Longer sprints are harder to plan but easier to implement. The shorter ones keep the team more focused, but they can also be more stressful—it’s not one size fits all, and you should be switching between the two types as needed.
Start off your sprint by creating a list of activities and deliveries that need to be made in order to complete your project or reach your goal (this will be your backlog).
Then estimate how long each activity will take. It’s important to be realistic about what you put into your sprint, so your team doesn’t get overwhelmed or bored. That said, the first two sprints are likely to overestimate or underestimate what your team can accomplish. The key is to learn from these mistakes and adjust accordingly for the next sprint.
Finally, the team leader prioritizes the backlog, the team breaks down the tasks, estimates individual completion times, and begins.
It’s crucial that you select a management tool that all your team members feel comfortable using. Ideally, you choose one everyone is familiar with, but you really shouldn’t just be using an Excel spreadsheet.
Planning is an essential part of every agile practice, but no matter how carefully you plan, you’ll always run into obsticles. That’s why it’s essential to have regular, brief, check-ins during each sprint.
The check-ins should idealy be daily, weekly meetings can cause bottlenecks to pile up. But for these meeting to work, everyone needs to participate and they need to be extremely brief, no more than 15-minutes. The topics of discussion are as follows:
- What did you do yesterday,
- What are you doing today,
- And what is keeping you from doing it (obsticles/inconveniences/issues)?
These quick meetings keep people accountable and help identify problems sooner rather than later. They also help to promote collaboration and communication.
“The Idea Parking Lot” to keep track of ideas
Sprints, by nature, are short and efficient. They require the team to prioritize activities and execute them without distractions.
This makes it difficult to push generate spur of the moment aleterations or side-projects.
That’s what the idea parking lot is all about. It’s a repository, where you can store suggestions and/or resolutions that you don’t plan on building right away.
Think of it as a list that you can refer to at your next sprint planning meeting.
Team leaders and members can submit ideas at any time. Each new sprint, the team will prioritize the ideas and decide whether or not to implement them into this week’s sprint.
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 new ways 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 here is transparency. Team members need to be honest about the problems they’re facing.
If your team has a more hierarchical structure, it can be challenging to get subordinate employees to open up. The meeting needs to be organized to encourage feedback from everyone. One solution is to submit feedback anonymously before the meeting.
Data is another critical aspect of these meetings. It is essential to develop meaningful metrics to measure sprint success.
→ Also Read: Remote Management in times of crisis
What Agile can do for you?
The length and bredth of benefits you can extract from Agile practices are too numerous to simply list. The incorporation of the Agile mindset alongside frameworks and practices ends up become more than just the sum of their parts.
As we’ve stated, Agile is a great methodology for getting your team memebrs all on the same page, even if it’s their first time working together, their first time working remotely, or the fitst time in a long time that they’re back in the office. But that’s only scratching the surface of what Agile can do for you.
Curious about how your company can get started implementing Agile for this context? In our ebook, we provide you with the best practices to perform well in hybrid models, and improve your team’s remote culture.
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