Before we get into developing your ideal agile virtual team culture, it’s worth thinking about what exactly we mean by ‘agile’.
An agile team is a cross-functional group of individuals that have the necessary people and skills to produce a successful outcome.
It’s important to remember that there’s no magic formula to developing an agile team – the very fact that it is agile means that it has scope to be continually changing and evolving, depending on the current needs of the team and the circumstances in which they are working.
Additionally, given that one of the critical tenets of agile methodology is that team members usually sit together to allow regular face to face communication, is understanding how (and if) this can work for your virtual team.
The short answer is, yes it can.
From video conferencing to regular check-ins on-line, brainstorming sessions, to on-line deep dives – the techniques that work in the traditional office space can be adapted to remote working too.
There is a set of strategies that leaders can employ to help enable their virtual teams to become agile, and I’ll take you through them in this article.
1. Respond to Change
The first point to note is that an agile team doesn’t make a plan and then resolutely stick to it, no matter what.
To be agile means to have the capacity to monitor and adapt where needed continually. Being prepared to re-evaluate priorities and shift resources will give your virtual team the flexibility to adjust quickly to circumstances and ensure success.
2. Focus on Results
Don’t get bogged down in process and procedure.
It can be easy to become burdened with ‘red tape’: those archaic procedures that inhibit your capacity to get things done quickly, or the out of date processes that your company has embedded in its systems that halt progress as swiftly as you started it.
A truly agile team needs the freedom to focus on the outcomes and results, so team members feel empowered to find solutions to problems, suggest innovative ideas, make decisions and achieve solutions. This inclusivity encourages and helps develop a culture where each team member is valued for their input, and they help source the solutions to move forward.
3. Show Accountability
It’s a team, after all: everyone has joint responsibility.
Although often linked to outcomes, accountability has less to do with the final result and more to do with the sharing, explaining, and discussing actions and plans within the team as you go along, noting the considerations and decisions that lead to the actual conclusion.
It’s critical that everyone is involved and accountable, regardless of the part they play in the exercise. Each team member should be able to recognise their effort contributes to the ‘bigger picture’ and therefore accept ownership and feel empowered.
Accountability relies on collaboration, and the courage to ask for others’ opinions and help. This engagement enables progress to be made and leads to creativity and a sense of achievement when everyone has contributed to a project.
Transparency is key.
Regularly communicating with your virtual team is essential to allow them to enjoy the benefits of being part of a happy workforce who know where the business is going and how they can help it get there.
All members of your team should be included in conversations, whether they are directly affected or not, to be kept up to date.
For example, you could consider daily ten-minute virtual ‘huddles’ to keep everyone in the loop and provide an opportunity for queries or concerns to be raised.
Leaving your team in the dark about important decisions allow speculation to start and can potentially result in a drop in morale, leading to dissatisfaction and concern. This is especially true of teams who are not in one geographical location – remember isolation can soon result in lower productivity.
Additionally, it’s wise to avoid sweeping any problems under the rug. Maintaining honesty is critical in keeping the agility and cohesiveness of your virtual team paramount, and allowing mistakes or setbacks to be viewed as learning curves will enable your organisation to grow and ultimately improve performance.
Communication can be powerful, helping build rapport and creating a bond of trust. Additionally, remember that conversation is a two-way process; successful leaders listen to their employees. Giving your team a voice will not only allow for feedback but open the door to suggestions that could improve efficiency or spark new ideas.
‘There’s no team without trust.’
Wise words from Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google.
Last, but certainly not least, remember that trust is pivotal in enabling your virtual team to grow and flourish and work collaboratively towards joint goals. As a leader, you need to trust your team, and your team need to trust each other. If that trust is missing, relationships will become strained, outcomes will be unsuccessful, and your team will cease to be agile.
As a leader, you need to allow your team the space to do their job. That means not checking in on them constantly – and definitely not micromanaging – but allowing them to use their skills.
If you have a genuine cause for concern, for example, if you think targets are not going to be met, raise the point with your team and allow them to figure out the best way forward themselves.
It’s crucial that each member of the team trusts others to uphold their end of the deal to ensure that tasks are completed in the way that was planned, and results are delivered on time.
Remember, it can take time to get things just right for your virtual team.
Organising a group of people and playing to their strengths doesn’t happen straight away, so be patient. It’s also worth noting that, for your team to be truly agile, you need to remember that the process and order that works for one project might not work for the next: you could find you need to adjust your methods overtime to maintain success levels.
It’s all part of remaining agile!
Remembering that your agile team is a constantly shifting and changing body will help you develop the right culture to support its success. That means establishing a virtual environment that fosters inclusivity, diversity and equality. Your team should feel they are listened to and respected, and individual employees need to understand how they fit in the ‘bigger picture’.
Implementing these steps will set you on the right pathway; you need the patience to give your virtual team time to get used to working together and employing their individual skills to work together to achieve the best results.
Here at Zestfor, we now offer programmes to help you to optimise your leadership skills and personal development and get the best out of your team. If you would like to find out more, then send a quick email here.
Until next time,
Can We Help?
Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, IT, and Life Sciences.
Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.