Agile is centered around boosting productivity, facilitating effective communication, and driving continuous improvement across all types of teams and industries. The greatest advantage is that its benefits extend far beyond the realm of software development, where it is most commonly used.
But what exactly is Agile?
It's a horizontal teamwork perspective that seeks to deliver results in short cycles that can be repeated and improved each time. It was indeed born to improve the performance of developers and their digital products, but its four values can be scaled to any area:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
And now, as you consider embracing Agile, it is normal to have doubts and wonder how your team will react.
Resistance to change is expected. Your team may believe that changing the technique of your traditional method will disrupt the established workflow, require a lengthy integration period, or that not everyone will be able to fully embrace the philosophy to the same degree, potentially impeding its successful implementation.
The goal is not to convince your team for the sake of it. The key lies in recognizing Agile as more than just a productivity methodology but as a tool for fostering the professional growth of your team. To begin, let's explore the advantages of one of the fundamental elements of the Agile mindset: the focus on individuals and their interactions.
By creating an environment of transparency where everyone participates, you will build trust and mutual understanding and make team members feel valued because they understand how their work impacts the collective effort. This will also lead the team to be more communicative, creative and have a better attitude towards their work.
And you don't need to worry, you can enjoy all these benefits in a hybrid and remote work environment.
No matter your location or the time zone differences, there are techniques and tools available to seamlessly transition your processes to the Agile methodology. However, before diving into the specifics, let's begin by assembling your ideal team to embark on this new Agile journey.
Within a traditional organization, project areas are typically divided into smaller teams, each with its own set of terms and shared knowledge. The primary emphasis lies in ensuring that each team attains its specific goals.
The major issue with such divisions is that they create communication barriers between departments, as each part of the project operates in isolation and appears to be independent. This leads to wasted time on requests, feedback, and readjustments, as individuals struggle to comprehend the terminology and context used by other teams.
This situation takes away from productivity and is therefore incompatible with the Agile Methodology.
But what if we do things a little bit differently?
Suppose we create a single team with the members required to complete an entire project. In that case, we will have multidisciplinary skills, enriched information, and more appropriate time estimates because everyone can see and consider each other's efforts. We will have a more comprehensive vision, and all members will collaborate on common goals. This is known as a cross-functional team.
But making sure members of different areas feel part of the same team is complicated. That's why knowing the Tuckman stages of group formation will help you to implement this structure.
Tuckman's Team Development Model
According to Tuckman's model, as a team matures and grows in capability, relationships strengthen, and the leadership style evolves towards a more collaborative and shared approach. He recognized five different stages:
Here is where you get to know your colleagues and the nature of their tasks. Although the time they have been in the company can influence their work method and how they get along with each other, make it a priority to meet your project’s needs when you choose people. This restructuring could lead you to discover if more people are needed in a position or if a role becomes unnecessary.
During this adaptation time, you must have a lot of patience and optimism. Don't try to make changes immediately when you feel discomfort between your team members; empower them to solve their problems. Complaints and misunderstandings may arise at the beginning, so keep working to get to know each other better and become familiar with each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Now the team recognizes and accepts its teammates, it can begin to focus on the actual goals. The workflow will stabilize, and they will know how each person can contribute to the project; little by little, they will receive more responsibilities, and delivery times will improve.
At the point of autonomy, the team can solve problems independently, self-regulate, manage efficiently, and seek improvement. They are ready for new challenges because they know how to work together and share the same goals.
This final stage is when you apply all the knowledge gained from one team to new workgroups; this could occur when certain members are required to join different projects, or the team is restructured.
Improve Your Team with Retrospectives
As we saw in the Tuckman model, getting the right people together is only the first step. To achieve effective teamwork, the team must establish connections, build trust, and familiarize themselves with one another.
This is where Agile's most crucial ceremony comes into play.
The Retrospective focuses on analyzing past work and even collaboration between teammates; in these sessions, the group discusses what went well and what did not during a recently completed project or sprint, but more importantly, they come up with concrete action items to improve performance. Effective communication among team members is crucial for reaching valuable insights, but even if communication is not yet optimal, running a Retrospective can be highly beneficial as it will help break the ice and showcase everyone’s efforts.
Another great advantage is that Retrospectives can be implemented with remote teams using specialized tools or even simpler options like video calls. The key is to have an excellent moderator who ensures everyone is involved, coordinates the process, and gives each member a chance to share.
Let's quickly review how to run these sessions and the key points you must keep in mind.
Set The Stage
Remember your priority: unite your team.
You need to prepare the environment so that they feel comfortable to speak, plan an icebreaker dynamic, take a few moments beforehand for a friendly chat, ask questions, and, step by step, lead them to the mindset you need to brainstorm. Take note of their interactions, those who speak less and those who sound more animated, and try to give everyone space to intervene and be heard.
All this effort will help you get to know them better, but also help them feel more confident when it comes to giving their professional opinion.
This step is to look for the ideas that will be discussed during the session, but remember that you are still fostering team unity, so make sure everyone participates. You can use our Retros tool (available for Jira, Confluence, monday.com, and Trello) and gather data using our anonymous mode, allowing ideas to be shared confidentially without members feeling embarrassed or concerned about comparing their opinions with others.
As a piece of advice, in addition to the questions about your project, assign an extra column where everyone leaves their comments on how they felt about the team communication during that sprint.
Keep your intervention to a minimum so that the team can discuss the ideas and choose the more relevant topics, allowing you to see their priorities and concerns. Feel free to ask for details if you need help to understand any ideas written down or being discussed; you will also discover how your team members think or express themselves.
Remember to moderate the conversation carefully, ensuring that each opinion is expressed in a constructive manner and not perceived as a complaint or grievance.
The team must propose actions that solve or improve the identified problems and create a work plan for the next cycle. Here they have the freedom to organize themselves, which will improve with every Retrospective session as they become aware of the strengths of each member. Each resulting task must be assigned to a person for proper follow-up.
At this point, let them know you appreciate the feedback they shared about the team's communication and ask them for proposals to continue improving it.
Close the Retrospective
Now you must intervene in the conversation to provide summaries and seek consensus from everyone involved. This reinforces a sense of agreement and encourages individuals to contribute different perspectives and ask any necessary questions.
With each Retrospective you do, you will improve your team's communication, leading to deeper discussions, more accurate conclusions, and taking actionable steps to foster growth. And while they are strengthening their relationships with each other, you too can improve your performance as a Scrum Master.
Keep Your Remote Team Together
We recommend keeping a close eye on your team when all start adopting the Agile Methodology and going through the concepts, so when they reach Tuckman's Norming and Performing stage, you can get much more out of another of the advantages of the remote work model: the asynchronous flow.
Agile Retrospectives are a collaborative ceremony; however, there are ways to manage them at different paces to allow your team more autonomy without sacrificing good results.
We recommend you try running asynchronous Retrospectives, which enables team members to participate at their convenience within a designated timeframe.
To do so, rather than confining the idea-gathering phase to ten minutes at the start of the Retrospective, team members have the flexibility to contribute their ideas and comments throughout the sprint, ensuring everyone can share their insights.
Our online Retros tool lets you choose your favorite technique o even create one that fits your team perfectly. It also lets you keep a clear record of the conclusions and even convert those resulting action items into tasks inside your preferred management platform, making tracking much more straightforward.
Part of the follow-up to accomplish those tasks is to constantly ask your team how their work is going, what they have done, what is missing, and what is blocking them from moving forward.
You can choose to run daily stand-ups via video calls. Just remember to make them no longer than fifteen minutes in duration and remind everyone to stick to the pre-made questions, as all other issues would be solved at a different meeting.
But sometimes, having those calls or asking directly to each of your colleagues and then waiting for their response becomes impractical and tedious. In those cases, using an automated bot will be ideal.
Our recommendation is StandBot, a Slack bot that lets you customize your questions and schedule when the bot will ask your colleagues about their work. All the answers will then be collected and posted on your team's channel so everyone can quickly review the progress.
Team Communication is Fundamental
To conclude, always remember that when leading a team, one of your main priorities should always be the individuals and their interactions. Being in the remote model does not mean losing those connections.
Make sure that keeping communication channels open becomes the norm, and that you provide a space for your team members to develop professionally and personally, as that can make the difference between feeling isolated and connected.
Regularly conduct Retrospectives, focusing not only on sprint progress but also on teamwork. Involve your team in selecting discussion topics, keeping the sessions simple and casual. Additionally, incorporate icebreakers into your regular meetings to foster relaxed and engaging conversations, such as discussing weekend plans, hobbies, or even favorite meals.
Lastly, we know Agile teams are diverse and complex, but with a commitment to practicing the key elements of the scrum methodology, you will continuously progress towards improvement and professional growth.
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