Managing Distributed Teams: how Agile methodologies can boost your productivity
“Remote work is the future of work.” - Alexis Ohanian (co-founder and executive chairman at Reddit)
The pandemic has changed our outlook on Remote Work, as well as the future of the workplace itself. According to a recent survey by Growmotely, it will become the new normal for the vast majority of professionals and entrepreneurs worldwide.
But let's take a step back and understand what we are talking about when referring to Remote Work
This is a way of working (also known as “Remote Working” or even “Home Working”) that involves performing tasks out of the office, with the help of appropriate digital devices (such as PCs, smartphones, tablets, headsets, etc.) and tools. Stats show that companies switching to a remote workforce are more productive than companies that only employ traditional onsite workers.
However, companies with distributed teams shouldn’t take productivity for granted. And Agile methods can be the solution to avoid this risk.
What are Distributed Agile Teams?
Wondering what Distributed Team is and how you can get it off the ground?
To better understand the concept of Distributed Teams, it is necessary to break down and explain its two main components:
- Distributed: it refers to the fact that employees are spread across multiple geographic locations that are different from each other.
- Agile: it refers to both a development approach and a teamwork method. An Agile Team is a team composed of members working on the same project and performing different tasks at the same time. The workflow is interrupted at regular intervals to analyze feedback and results and, if necessary, adjust the strategy to make improvements.
- The Agile Approach is becoming increasingly popular in many industries - not only in Software Development - because it enables constant improvement of the product or service offered, even in the final stages of the process.
What are the challenges of Distributed Agile Teams?
Managing a Distributed Team can be challenging.
As with any workplace model, there are some challenges that come with managing Distributed Teams. Remote Work is unique because each employee has a degree of freedom to work according to his or her style. However, each member's work still needs to coordinate with the overall goals of the team.
Here are some common challenges that every distributed team can face.
- Communication gaps: one of the biggest challenges for distributed teams is the transmission of information. If the team is scattered all over the world, you may encounter language and cultural barriers on the way to project definition.
- Time mismatches: with talent dispersed around the world, it’s almost a fantasy to believe everyone can be co-located all the time. But this gap has a double face. On the one hand, a lack of coordination when it comes to time zones can affect productivity. On the other, having teams working in multiple time zones can be beneficial for project continuity.
- Lack of vision on the project goal: the ability to identify, articulate, and share a clear vision for the project is one of the key ingredients to its success. Living and working away from the rest of the team can be difficult for workers who need to keep track of progress on assignments: when you can't drop by their desks in person, it is easy to have gaps in the overview.
Simply put, managing a Distributed Team involves difficulties in engagement and collaboration.
How to work effectively and increase productivity in this new paradigm?
As companies reorganize and adapt to new ways of working, especially remotely, Agile methodologies are more important than ever. The principles of flexibility, collaboration, continuous learning, and self-organization can help Distributed Teams work together more effectively.
There are basically two steps on which to base the organization of a Distributed Team.
The first step is to adopt the SCRUM Methodology in business processes.
What SCRUM offers are procedures allowing a way of working to be adapted to the specific needs of each initiative. Another important quality of this method is that the work-time to achieve a goal is short, and usually defines the delivery time of each part of the project. Also, when a client asks for change, it can be incorporated without causing delays in the defined deadlines. To the latter's considerable satisfaction and liking!
Secondly, when your team works remotely, you need to provide it with suitable solutions that allow working collaboratively, effectively, and productively. Effective collaboration tools are simply essential for all forms of remote working.
PMs, indeed, can fight the challenges of Distributed Teams by leveraging project management tools which include progress tracking features to provide a comprehensive view of what each employee is working on.
Effective Team Management is critical for companies because people are the power behind what the company wants to achieve. Investing time and resources in work methodologies, tools, and more generally in the way you manage people can make the difference between a positive environment or a negative one.
Not only will good people management grow the business, but it will also enhance your employees' careers and help them grow professionally. This will then translate into the growth of the company's productivity and how it delivers value for its stakeholders.
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