Agile: Adapting project management processes for remote teams | Part 1

  • 31/07/2020
  • 18:55
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Whilst the Agile framework has been used in the software industry for many years, it continues to grow in popularity across multiple sectors due to its proven results.

The abrupt move to remote working in response to COVID-19 has challenged the typical approach to managing Agile teams. Historically Agile is embedded, and has thrived, when team members are co-located. The frequent in-person contact builds trust, simplifies problem solving, facilitates rapid communication, and in turn supports fast-paced decision making.

Although some teams were set up and embracing elements of remote working already, the sudden transformation of fully or partially co-located teams to a fully virtual approach has, for some, resulted in reduced cohesion and inefficiency. COVID-19 has forced organisations to look for the most effective remote working best practices. So, what are the fundamentals behind Agile teams?

Sprints – Instead of a macro approach to long-term goals, the Agile process breaks projects down to shorter iterations called ‘sprints.’ Each sprint is a block of time – anywhere from a week to a month – and each team has a set of clear objectives, working targets, and deadlines.

Scrum master – The leader of an Agile team is called the scrum master. At the beginning of each work period, the scrum master hosts a ‘stand up’ meeting. The emphasis is on standing up for a quick update and catch-up, as opposed to gathering for a longer traditional meeting.

Retros – After each quick stand up meeting, the team(s) hold a retrospective (or ‘retro’) meeting where they go more in-depth. Here, they identify opportunities, issues, and related solutions to move the sprint forwards. After these elements have been identified, the team works on them until the next sprint.

Are there any benefits to working remotely?

The Agile framework relies on moving fast between meetings and implementation. It’s especially popular because it allows people and businesses to identify what’s successful, what’s not, and apply real-time solutions. The inherent speed of the framework can also significantly benefit teams working remotely. Examples include:

Increased communicational clarity – Since all processes and decisions need to be shared across all locations, the digital paper trail is created automatically.

Flexible work schedules – As long as specific deadlines are agreed upon and met, having team members scattered around the globe can help projects to complete faster since people can work at any time of the day, and move away from the restrictions of the 9-5 schedule.

Access to a greater variety and level of talent – By recruiting outside of local markets, you can find a wider variety of talent which can be at a lower cost with more skillset options.The number of teams that work remotely is on the rise, so the question for leaders is: how do you optimise the use of Agile best practices in the virtual environment?

Agile leadership

In hand with autonomous Agile teams comes the need for a high degree of company alignment. Agile leaders need to double down on their efforts to align their team(s) with the company’s overall strategy, intent, and purpose. In the past, these elements were precursors to autonomy (I.e. after enough trust and seniority, employees have more remote working flexibility). Now, agile leaders must align their remote teams with the overall company vision first – and reiterate it frequently – so that they feel empowered and connected to larger business objectives.

Agile was initially designed for small, single-team projects, but now its use is becoming widespread. For more information on how you can make the best of Agile remote working, read the second blog in our Agile series or contact our team today.