An idea pioneered by software developers has now taken the world by storm – working in agile teams has firmly taken root in many different industries in recent years. Marketing teams, educational pioneers and product developers from a wide variety of sectors are turning to frameworks such as scrum and Kanban when collaborating – always aiming to create as much value for the customer as possible.
One of the key factors contributing to the success of this approach is communication. We’ve gathered methods that non-agile teams can use to generate value – especially when they have to collaborate virtually to complete their day-to-day tasks:
- Working agreements
- Daily stand-ups
- The Pomodoro Technique
- Continuous improvement process (CIP)
Working agreements keep everyone on the same page
To ensure teamwork generates value and everyone involved feels appreciated, it’s important to know the needs of individual team members and to decide how everyday work should be organized. The working agreements specify which routines the team has agreed on. For example:
- “We turn our cameras on for online meetings.”
> This enables teams to communicate through gestures and facial expressions, too.
- “We turn up to every meeting well prepared and on time.”
> This includes testing whether the necessary technology is working.
- “We always keep our status up to date on our collaboration tool (Microsoft Teams).”
> This way, our colleagues know when they can reach us outside of set meeting times.
- “We focus on the content of the meeting, without working on other tasks at the same time.”
> Virtual coffee breaks give teams that are working remotely the opportunity to hold private conversations, where they can chat more casually.
- “We regularly reflect on our collaboration and make joint decisions on any necessary changes.”
> These retrospectives contribute to the continuous improvement process.
Stay up to date with a daily stand-up
A brief, daily meeting creates transparency about the progress each individual team member has made with their work. The daily stand-up (otherwise known as “daily scrum” or just “daily”) takes place every day at the same time and should last no longer than 15 minutes. Having a uniform structure for everybody’s contributions helps ensure the daily doesn’t run over. Each team member should briefly answer three questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What are my plans for today?
- What do I need help with?
More in-depth discussions should take place outside the daily.
Efficient meetings with timeboxing
A simple method for keeping meetings efficient is timeboxing. Determine beforehand how much time you would like to dedicate to the various topics and make the schedule transparent for everyone. If the time allotted to a particular topic has run out, but further discussion is still required, the team can decide whether to continue discussing it or move onto the next topic. Using an audible or visual signal at the end of each time slot helps the team stay on schedule. Incidentally, everyone can find the tool they need for this in their home office – by using a kitchen timer, for example.
What about the time between meetings? Self-organization throughout the day
Speaking of kitchen timers – this little device is perfect for helping you with your own productivity. You can use the Pomodoro Technique to structure your personal workload.
- Write down a list of your specific tasks.
- Set your timer for 25 minutes.
- Work intensively on a task until the timer rings.
- Take a five-minute break.
- Start the next round.
Self-organization also requires self-care, so remember to take a longer break after every four rounds.
Regularly reflect on collaborations
For agile teams, retrospectives are the cornerstone of their continuous improvement process (CIP). This is when they regularly review their previous ways of working so as to optimize them moving forward and improve their collaboration. For scrum teams, retrospectives mark the end of each sprint, while also providing guidance for the next cycle. If there is no scrum master, agile coach or trainer in the team to chair the retrospective, the following questions, for example, could serve as a starting point for joint reflection.
- What went well?
- Where do we see potential for improvement?
- What do we want to do differently in the future?
The documentation can be kept relatively simple. Just make any joint decisions transparent for everybody.
Being agile means, among other things, working in a way that focuses on people’s individual needs and being able to respond flexibly to changes. So why not try out different methods and implement them based on your team’s specific requirements? Inspect and adapt!