Our first blog on remote teams focused on alignment with the customer. But external alignment is only half of creating and maintaining a successful remote agile model. Teams need to bridge the distance to create internal alignment and harmony in order to deliver the best results.
Once a distributed team understands what it must deliver to thrill a customer, it also needs to align around how to work together to get things done. These elements fall into two buckets.
Schedule working video conferencing sessions with the team. Have your scrum master, team lead or other natural leaders facilitate intentional and deliberate discussions around these topics. These conversations, and the working agreements that emerge, should happen as organically as possible. But, sometimes prompts and nudges can help keep the conversation moving. Some of my favorites include:
As working agreements emerge from these conversations, document and post them to the team’s virtual work space. Revisit the working agreements at each sprint retrospective. Call out successes, shortcomings and desired refinements to improve future outcomes.
Remote developers must know their teammates and leaders care about them as people. Without real relationships to bind them together, distributed teams can fracture into sets of individuals as team spirit and teamwork devolve.
Make time and space for conversations and interactions that would happen more organically for colocated teams. Simple ways to do this include:
Whatever your method, encourage informal gatherings, bring fun to the job and inject opportunities to discuss life outside of the codebase. Provoke personal conversation and connection. A foundation of familiarity makes the hard stuff easier.
Virtual pats on the back and high fives mean a lot. Coach the full leadership chain – team leads, managers, directors, executives and even client/customer stakeholders – to go out of their way to recognize and reward performance, and to share and deliver gratitude. Mindfully replace spontaneous small gestures you make in the office with ones you can deliver via technology.
Some of the best solutions are paradoxically low tech – a hand-written note in the mail, phone call from a grateful client or executive, physical gift card or traveling sprint MVP trophy can demonstrate your appreciation and reinforce both performance and culture.
As with all things agile, perfecting a remote team’s alignment and culture takes iteration. Make the time to revisit, reflect, examine, experiment and refine. When something isn’t working for the team, encourage them to change it. Self-organization and self-advocacy go hand-in-hand. A team that aligns to practice both will surely find its way, regardless of physical location or proximity.
– The first in this series presented how to align remote agile teams with your customers.
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