Agile remote teams: How to be more intentional

Agile Manifesto is a series of principles that help software development to ensure good performance and to improve deliveries and results. One of the most important principles is: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. But what happens if we talk about agile distributed teams? What happens with their interactions?

Remote interaction can be very difficult and different if we compare it with co-located teams. The way they communicate, the way they share information, and even the way they host agile ceremonies.

What actually happens with remote teams is that they need to be more intentional if we talk about performance. They need to overcommunicate and for sure they need tools. What else does your team need to be more intentional? Let’s check it!

"Members ...needed to be familiar with the tools being used; information sharing needed to be explicit; information was transformed more often than in a co-located setting; and individuals had to take responsibility for deciding what information to share, when and through which medium". (Source)

How to be more intentional with my agile distributed team?

The first thing we need to take into consideration about remote performance and Agile principles is that the Agile manifesto doesn’t express rules, express a mindset that should not be taken as a strict rule. Why is this important? Because that means that teams need to make their own mix of approaches, areas, values, and behaviors to achieve the performance that the company needs. So it doesn’t matter if your team has just two daily standups per week is about to look for what fits better for your team.

Build motivation in your agile remote team:

motivation in your agile remote team (Source)

Make members feel identified with their tasks. Assigning tasks to members that can feel more identified and feel responsible to finish those tasks. Assing challenging tasks and have an understandable purpose for each task. When members work with a purpose it is easier to feel motivated, and make decisions based on what the team is looking for.

If the team members understand what the vision for the product is, they are able to make the right decisions when solving tasks and complex problems. After getting to know the important stakeholders, it was easier for a remote team-member to ask questions related to the features. (Source)

Coaching:

With this we are not talking about a person who expresses the way people should be working, is to have a person available to help the team and support them. To have a leader in the team is crucial to achieving self-management and also to help the team to improve the way they onboard agile ceremonies.

Leaders can make easier the learning process that agile remote work needs, and also help the team to start working independently based on the company’s needs.

Coaching impacts the perceived levels of empowerment, self-management, and improved group processes(… ) Learning is the key when working on highly complex and ambiguous tasks such as a virtual agile team, and the level of coaching will improve the learning that takes place within the team and thus improve the output of the team.

(Source) Sillitti Alberto (2010). "Agile Processes in Software Engineering and Extreme Programming"

Communication:

Communication is different than the way people talk in offices and share information. Remote team needs to share information through different channels. Remote teams base their performance in a virtual environment which sometimes can be more difficult than a physical environment. In that way, you need to ensure that members have accessibility to communicate with all the team and at the same time to find some ways to make the team interact more frequently.

Bringing transparency and visibility is crucial to ensure good communication between members. Also, practicing Agile ceremonies can help you with bad communication. To bring faces together on a regular basis, a process (Daily Scrum meetings) and a tool (video conference system or phone calls) are needed.

To create equal opportunities for engagement or isolation, particularly in terms of situation awareness, the horizon of observation, communication bandwidth, and the level of information transformation for all members of the team. (Source)

Collaboration in distributed teams

Work can't be possible without collaboration. Collaboration in remote teams implies an open space where members can gather and talk. Having a space for collaboration in a remote team is taking into consideration: schedule meetings, send messages, send e-mails, turn on cameras, everything that make the team feel safe and free to perform.

One excellent way to take into consideration if we talk about collaboration is to ensure the teams are sharing and have the access to all the information needed. There have to be equal opportunities to find information and understand the same problem. Instead of a physical scrumboard look for a platform like Jira or Confluence to have the same access to all members.

Something like just sharing your screen meanwhile a member needs to explain something can change the way the team is collaborating.

Collaboration in remote teams is about how well you can create an awareness feeling in your team, which can be possible with different platforms and spaces that help the team for every process' stage. Don't forget about Agile Ceremonies!

Agile ceremonies in remote teams

Did you notice which could be the trigger to ensure all of those points?

Tools for agile remote teams

Tools are indispensable to make a more intentional remote team. Tools can help you with every point that we already talk about: collaboration, communication, visibility, agile ceremonies. You need to find the best tools that help your team to engage. At this point, we can say that be more intentional is more effective if you have a tool that helps your team with every step.

Collaboration: Collaboration can be hampered by a lack of effective tools for managing activities such as task boards, bug trackers, and backlog tools. (Source)

Tools are a great way to follow-up on your Agile ceremonies. Our Retros for Jira tool can assign resulting action items as Jira tasks so they’re visible for your team as part of their workload.

In the same way, tools can help you to save a lot of time. Stand-bot is a tool that will help your team to have daily standups asynchronously, every member can do their report at the best time and all your information can be saved in Jira.

To find the best tools for your team is essential to make your interaction more intentional and have a specific space for your own necessities.

As you can see, being more intentional is implicated in different approaches and team's necessities. From having a daily meeting to sending an instant message. Every step can be the difference in how the team is engaged. Remote work sometimes is difficult but with the right practices and collaboration it's easier and easier.

Check out some of our tools for agile remote teams: