Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, participated on
the core team of the Software Extension to the
PMBOK® Guide. He can be reached at email@
HUMAN IS THE NE W VIRTUAL
Agile also emphasizes the value of team culture.
Creating a solid, human connection between
members goes a long way with a distributed team.
To create this, project leaders could perform a
team chartering activity to establish rules like: “We
share time zone inconveniences” or “To encourage
unity, we dress business casual, even when working from home” or “We hold everyone accountable
to the same quality standards, regardless of your
office location.” These shared working agreements
help harness the best of corporate and ethnic
cultures. For international teams, consider a one-language rule as a way to create a sense of unity,
even if it means using language-translation tools
and more written messages than phone calls.
The most difficult
part of not sharing
an office is making a
One way to facilitate
social connections with
the virtual team members is an always-on
webcam or monitor in
the break room, ideal
for informal chats. Or,
dedicate a social chat
room online where fun
and personal interactions are encouraged.
Managing a distributed team takes a little
planning and effort, but
that’s true of any effective team facilitation. The
key point to remember
is this: If all you’re doing
is emailing and conference calling, then you’re doing
project management the ’90s way. PM
The Agile Manifesto declares, “The most efficient
and effective method of conveying information to and
within a [project] team is face-to-face conversation.”
But what if your project team is spread across
multiple vendors in different cities? What if those
cities are in different time zones with conflicting
work cultures? What if part of your team works
from home? Today’s virtual work environments
mean getting valuable face time can be a struggle.
However, with a few extra steps, you can adapt to
this new business reality without sacrificing agility.
REMOTE IS THE NEW AGILE REALITY
The world has changed a lot since the agile movement was formalized in 2001. The only remote
collaboration choices at the time were email and
conference calls. Since then, there has been an
explosion of technology from video conferencing
to broadband to mobile everything. The value of
face-to-face communication comes from combining visual, verbal and textual information. But with
the help of today’s technology, virtual teams can
reproduce that same dynamic. For instance, use two
screens in order to share a document and have a
video chat going at the same time. Or, assign everyone in the conference room a “back-chat” partner,
a virtual team member who has permission to message you with a tablet when he or she can’t be heard
over the presenter. To streamline remote interactions, it’s worth investing a little time to set up these
tools before the scheduled meetings.
And speaking of meetings, many global teams
report improved productivity when they limit
meetings to “collaboration hours,” the time that
overlaps in their different time zones. This will also
force a conversation around how many of your
meetings are really necessary.
Remote teams can be
managed the agile way.
BY JESSE FEWELL, CS T, PMI-ACP, PMP,