The beauty of being on a team is seeing people with a variety of skill sets come together to achieve a common goal. That was easier when teams were all working in the same place. While hybrid agile teams have unlocked a whole host of benefits—WFH at the hours you choose, increased flexibility in how they execute the work, and more—there are also new challenges.
For agile teams to truly thrive, they need better cross-functional collaboration. That can still happen on a remote or hybrid team. But companies and teams need to be truly committed to embodying the Agile Manifesto and cultivating environments where employees can experiment and fail safely.
So how do you make that happen? I’ll share a few of the traits I see successful teams exhibit in their day-to-day work and initiatives that you can adopt to improve your agile team experience—no matter who’s working where.
There can be no collaboration without communication, but that can be a serious challenge with distributed teams. It can be tempting for those team members working from home to get heads-down into their work and stay that way until signing off for the day. And it can be tempting for in-office workers to be over-reliant on desk-side chats to share critical information (context that remote workers can end up missing).
When poor communication takes your team in different directions, time and money are wasted. Communication improves transparency, ensures a shared vision, and positively impacts your bottom line.
Here are a few ways to improve your team’s communication:
- Disrupt the potential for isolation by “checking-in” with fellow team members at the start of the day. Once you’ve opened the line for communication, you’ll be more likely to reach out, and so will others.
- Meet every day for standup (or daily Scrum), and possibly additional periodic check-ins at midday or end of day. By having check-ins become an established part of a routine, your team members know when to make themselves available and can better prepare updates for the rest of the team.
- Learn and use protocols for communication, including how to make decisions, how to give and receive feedback quickly, and which channels to use for different types of communications. When in doubt, overcommunicate. Communication cuts down on misunderstandings.
- Foster a continuous improvement mindset so teams will quickly identify impediments and address them before they become unmanageable.
Collaboration is the magic that happens when people come together, interact, and create. Those moments of collaboration are like a pinball machine of effective productivity. Here are some ways to improve the magic of collaboration:
- Put the vision down on paper—or more appropriately, a virtual board. It’s dangerous to assume your team knows what its vision is. Incorporating visuals into meetings focused on things such as product development and strategic planning can also help keep everyone on the same page.
By keeping the vision visible, constantly communicating about it, and keeping the team aligned, your teams will know what goal they are working towards. These moments energize teams as they work to see and build the future together.
- Eliminate silos and “throw it over the wall” handoffs by involving all of the right people in a cross-functional team that can work together to quickly deliver value.
Effectiveness in collaboration increases as we cultivate human relationships. Collaboration helps people open up, offer colleagues greater transparency, and resolve conflict quickly. Collaboration is at the heart of agility, making it easy to identify new ways you and your team can succeed.
Cultivate (a growth mindset)
Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. Challenge yourself to try things in a new way. Leaders need to create a strong culture of learning—a safe-to-fail culture.
Here are some tips to start cultivating a genuine growth mindset:
- It starts with leaders. If employees don’t see their leader embody this mindset, individuals won’t embody it either. It just takes one negative example for everyone to begin to fear failure. Do your actions match your words? If you proclaim it to be a safe-to-fail environment where learning is valued, what do you do when an innovative program doesn’t perform?
- Be transparent about goals, where the company is headed, and how the work you are doing is connected to those goals. This is a powerful motivating tool and can turn into creating some truly innovative ideas generated by a team that knows where it’s headed.
- Empower individuals to make strategic decisions in their area of expertise. Don’t be a bottleneck—let the people you hired do the thing they were hired to do, and keep your end of the bargain by approving things quickly.
When leaders prioritize positivity and appreciation, everyone can feel the difference. One benefit of positivity is that it keeps teams engaged, which can result in a boost to morale and camaraderie.
One of my favorite things is seeing the delight in a colleague’s eyes when a stakeholder recognizes their efforts: it truly does make a difference. A culture of positivity is powerful. Let’s appreciate and recognize one another frequently.
Here are some creative ways of doing just that:
- Celebrate wins. Get creative with this one. It can be anything from giving out coffee shop gift cards to the team to throwing an impromptu party. If your team is remote, you can hold a virtual celebration that includes a curated package sent to all attendees that will enhance the experience.
- Celebrate publicly. Tell the entire org about the fun you have and the successes you’ve accomplished. If there is a newsletter that goes out, ask for your team’s successes to be included. If you have an org-wide Slack channel, celebrate there.
Taking the time to frequently celebrate and recognize one another is a way to participate in something called “appreciative inquiry.” This model of change management helps us get curious about the positive in a way that heightens our potential to achieve even more greatness. Prioritizing positivity and appreciation can help organizations achieve more impactful outcomes.
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About the author
As Chief Evangelist at Lucid Software and Certified Scrum Trainer, Bryan Stallings has coached thousands of individuals and teams in Agile and Scrum techniques.