'Agile' teams are now no longer a thing of the past. How can you easily adapt tools and processes to help bolster an agile workforce?
When the ‘agile’ methodology was at its peak, it was all everyone could talk about. Initially used in software development, it was quickly adapted and used across various fields, even non-tech sectors.
For the uninitiated, the ‘agile’ methodology involves small, cross-functional teams collaborating in an iterative process to develop high-quality products in a short time. Essentially, the ‘agile’ methodology is a project management technique, squarely focused on delivering value, reducing waste and improving continually.
These days, in the zeitgeist of remote or hybrid work arrangements, the term ‘agile’ brings to mind a different definition. Today, it more commonly refers to the ability to work anywhere, whether in the office or at home.
With remote work, companies that thrive on agile methodologies have an added challenge. Team members may no longer be in one room, writing on post-its, looking at a physical whiteboard, and communicating spontaneously about a project’s progress. So, how do ‘agile’ teams become agile remotely? Let’s look at how a business can better equip ‘agile’ teams in today’s ‘new normal’ of remote work.
Moving into the virtual space, ‘agile’ teams would need tools that can allow them to continue conducting the same in-person interaction. A great way to do that is to use virtual whiteboards, where everything can be recorded in one place so that spontaneous ideas don’t get left out. One that can allow users to place sticky notes and move them around also closely mimics the iterative ‘agile’ methodology.
The virtual whiteboard should allow ‘agile’ teams to create a list of tasks for the team to accomplish in the near future and estimate how long it would take to complete each task. The team leader should then be able to prioritise the task list, and then divide them among the team members to conquer.
A virtual whiteboard allows team members to see everything transparently and holds each employee accountable. Be careful not to overwhelm your team with too many virtual tools, however. Choose a good one that can replicate the same interactions that your team used to have, and stick to it.
One way to replicate spontaneous chats along the corridor is to have quick check-ins. This is especially important for ‘agile’ cross-functional teams, with these chats being used to communicate that tasks are completed.
If the scrum master of the ‘agile team’ could follow up with the team members individually on the progress and give feedback frequently, this could recreate the coffee chats that happen spontaneously in the office. The scrum master can then document the team’s insights and ideas in an overall file to refer to later. This is especially useful for quick thoughts, which your team can implement after the priority tasks have been completed.
When doing such chats, managers should encourage team members to turn on their video camera so they can monitor body language and facial expressions. It is vital for coaching purposes to understand how employees may be feeling — whether they feel engaged, motivated, or fatigued.
That said, it pays to be mindful of how each team member feels about frequent check-ins. Some teams may find it more productive to keep a specific time slot for meetings and check-ins so as to dedicate other hours in the day to production or development. In that case, limit meetings to only mornings, or afternoons, whichever your team prefers.
Another critical aspect of the ‘agile’ methodology is to reduce waste. When it comes to Zoom or breakout rooms, the comfort of being in a home office and listening to other people talk could cause conversations to drag on and become less efficient.
Each meeting could have a chairman who would proactively keep the meeting short and focused. This chairman will also facilitate the conversations and ‘pass the ball’ by calling team members’ names to avoid stagnant pauses. There should also be a definite time period for returning to the central meeting if there are breakout rooms. This can help meetings to stay focused and succinct, preventing Zoom fatigue.
As teams move into a remote work state, it could be easy for individuals to feel isolated. To build trust and boost morale, companies can offer rewards and recognition for a particular team or team member. Other ways to increase employee motivation includes peer-to-peer recognition and manager discretionary rewards.
All these can be done via a one-stop platform such as BI WORLDWIDE’s DayMaker, which can be customised with gamification. Having such a system can allow rewards and recognition to happen at any time in the day, and it builds rapport among teammates who may not be working in the same physical space.
It is possible to create a culture of ‘agile’ even in today’s world, where teams are increasingly distributed across different locations. Being able to do ‘agile’ both in-person and online allows your teammates to have the option of working from home while maintaining the right level of productivity and collaboration.