Top 6 Ways Agile Teams Can Stay Collaborative While Working Remotely

Agile teams, if designed well, are a group of about ten to twelve people who have all the necessary skills to complete an increment of work, continuously. In addition to skills, a high amount of coordination and trust is needed to be able to deliver on their shared team commitments.  

However, they don’t always sit together which can affect even the best agile team’s ability to collaborate often and easily. 

Here are our top 6 ways agile teams can stay collaborative while working remotely.  

1. People are Humans not Resources

While this isn’t a tool or activity to help directly with collaboration, this point is important.  

People are human beings with needs for food, water, and social connections, not “resources” which are things people may use to get something done. Even in agile environments which should foster a “people first” approach, we still hear leaders and others refer to people as resources.  

Regardless of your role on an agile team or how you serve an agile team, ensure your language, writing and other materials refer to people as people. Even something as subtle as a word change can make a difference in mindsets and views on collaboration.  

2. Choose a Collaboration Tool Together

Companies will already have some tools to select from which can be anything from Asana to Zoom so the choices may be few or many. In either scenario, the team should decide which tool to use for collaboration.  

Other tools can be used as well, such as Outlook for more “formal” communications, but the team should choose their primary collaboration tool and incorporate this into their working agreements (a document that incorporates a team’s best practices, values and norms). 

3. Get on Camera!

Communicating through written form or even over the phone is not very personal and both are absent of facial expressions. Naturally, people look to faces for signs of emotion so turn your camera on! Face to face is always best when teams are not able to be in the same room. 

4. Set Core Working Times & Focus Time

Time zones often get in the way of collaboration, but a simple fix is for the team to decide on a set chunk of time when all team members should be on-line at the same time. Or better yet, everyone be on video to make it feel more like you’re in the same room together! Sound weird? Try it!   

Setting the core working time will help set the expectation that everyone is available to prioritize this time for discussions and other exchanges.  

This doesn’t mean the entire day however, because people still need some quiet, focused time.    

And while this seems like we’re encouraging some “anti-collaboration”, the team should set times when not to disrupt one another which gives “permission” to team members to turn off notifications or change their status to “inactive”.  

5. Use a Visualization Tool

Remember the days where team members would get into a room to whiteboard out an idea or write on Post-It notes to brainstorm and plan with their teammates 

Providing a way to collaborate in real time while using various ways to visualize is a must for an agile team. Some of our favorites are Miro and Jamboard.  

6. Reserve Time for Team Building

While most meetings start with some general small talk, it’s important to reserve some time in the week or the month for some socialization and team building.  

There are some companies that have already created some great activities specially designed for remote teams! These range from murder mysteries to building a Turkish lamp. Do a search on “virtual team building activities” and you’ll be able to find something great! 

Besides team building activities, reserving time to simply have a virtual lunch, or even sharing “fun” facts about each other helps to build a stronger team bond. A team that bonds together will collaborate well! 

We hope you enjoyed our top 6! If you have some more ideas or want to share your experiences with us, drop us a comment below! 

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Born 1965, San Antonio, Texas and lives in Dallas, Tx.
Mr. James, Ronald, Maverick holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at The University of Texas, San Antonio.

Mr. Maverick or JR as many call him is a “slick” but warm and friendly character in our upcoming book on the DevOps Mindset. Mr. Maverick cares about his IT team very much and could charm the socks off a Texas Longhorn. JR is liked by many in his organization; however, he is not as well trusted by the Overlords as he used to be. Mr. Maverick has a group of loyal staff, including Mr. Barker a bit of an opposite to JR. Of course, Mr. Barker would never call him JR; he would only call him Mr. Maverick because well, Mr. Maverick is his boss. Mr. Maverick has held many IT positions in the past, including starting as a Sales Professional for HP and IBM mini and mainframe computers. Over the years he has risen through the ranks to hold this senior position by delivering using high-paid consultants and Big name firms. He also received his promotion from outsourcing to a foreign country where he was able to reduce his IT spend significantly. Recently he has discovered (actually this was made painfully aware to him by the Overlords) that both the Offshore roadmap and use of external consultants was not giving him the value and velocity for his IT department, and he was probably paying more than he bargained for

So, after hearing a talk at a DevOps event by the Agents of Chaos, JR decided to enlist them to help with their digital transformation roadmap and help improve the value, focus and velocity of his department. However, MR. Maverick has a few ideas about agile and DevOps, something he has heard about for a while and read in various CIO magazines; he thinks of these as Marketing terms and something that can be bought. While Mr. Maverick has held on for many years to traditional IT ways of working he has come to the end of his tenure if he doesn’t do something fast and get DevOps working quickly as he has promised to the Overlords providing him with a little more rope to get the transformation completed more quickly as they view his IT department ageing, procrastinators who are not able to keep up with business demands. JR says in his mind, “I will get it done, they don’t call me Maverick for nothing!“