How to drive Agile Project Management with Remote Teams

How to drive Agile Project Management with Remote Teams

Agile project management has been a key ingredient of corporate strategy for a decade now. And with the recent business scenarios, remote teams are the new norm and agile project management adoption has taken the center stage.

Running operations with a 100% remote team requires a lot of flexibility and quick adaptability to achieve results.

At the same time, it needs to be a well thought out approach rather than gushing an idea down your teams’ throats.

Taking a big bang and complete revamp approach to building remote team agility will prove counter-productive.

Business agility is a multi-team and multi-level activity and success lies in understanding “true agility”.

It is not just about knocking off items on your to-do lists swiftly.

Rather, a thorough top-down and bottoms-up approach that provides granular clarity at strategic and tactical levels.

What does this mean?

Basically, everything from your product design, project portfolio management, customer service, talent acquisition, quality assurance (QA), sales, marketing, HR or the company board needs to

  • Adapt changes faster
  • Breakdown activities at a granular level
  • Assess outcomes and values of the defined changes
  • Monitor progress on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis
  • Improvise & implement in a phased manner

How to ready your remote teams for the agile transition?

If you take a closer look at the agile approach, it isn’t so much about being remote or not. It is about the agile mind set.

The teams need to move from the typical long phased waterfall way of doing things and assess the “business value” of their work in quick short intervals.

You cannot go on and on to decide if the actual results match with what was originally planned and expected.

Scalability and the right change management approach is key.

Decisions must be made purely on the positive impact and value generating outcomes.

Remote teams need to be in alignment with the demands of the customer priorities, go-to market horizon and the overall corporate strategy.

Project Managers, Scrum Masters and Change Managers in collaboration with the PMO must ensure remote teams have the absolute clarity of the job at hand & are adaptive and flexible to changing work needs.

This also entails the fact that the teams have clarity of the

  • Product backlog
  • Upcoming sprints
  • Customer priorities
  • Overall product roadmap

In terms of monitoring the remote team transition, we must pay careful attention to

  • Task breakdown structure
  • Epics & stories are well understood by the team
  • Backlog refinement based on value and outcome mapping with the product vision
  • Effort vs benefit analysis of the product backlog items
  • Sprint velocity of the remote teams

The key is to have answers to

  • What is working today?
  • What is not working today?
  • Which parts have the least dependencies?
  • What could be a quick win for the organization?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the efforts and associated costs?

Once done, it becomes a good foundation for your remote teams to strengthen their agile project management practices.

Or in the case of majorly waterfall teams, these answers can pave the way forward in building team agility.

Let us now up the ante and move on to practical scenarios where resources are spread across your project portfolio.

Agile Project Management for multiple simultaneous projects

All organizations have this dilemma. More so in the recent remote work scenario where teams shuffle across projects.

Take a quick look at your portfolio and you will teams are battling with projects

  • Significantly different in the expected outcomes
  • Have their own schedule
  • Varied levels of size & complexity
  • Disparate team composition & involvement
  • Varied stakeholder engagement levels

Thus the remote teams have to be high adaptive in shifting gear as they shift across projects.

Which also means seamlessly working with the implementation plan, execution speed, reporting needs, meeting requirements across each of these projects.

But there is a common thread amongst all of these differentiators – value based outcomes and alignment with the central strategy.

More the teams are able to refocus their efforts and approach to ensuring value based task or sprint outcomes, better the quality of the deliverable.

Well, stating this sounds very easy. But in practical implementation teams have to focus on the granular details:

  • Understanding the what, why and how of the product items.
  • Are the items agreed upon by the customer and product owner?
  • Have the product items, tasks or backlogs prioritized correctly?
  • Is the value of the assigned task well ascertained and in alignment with the overall goal?
  • Visibility of the project/product realization timelines
  • Clarity of associated inter-dependencies and more

Looking on the brighter side, the teams get a

  • good view of the overall project portfolio
  • lot of learning opportunities
  • handle on stakeholder expectation management
  • better business decision making capabilities
  • chance to expand skills across multiple technologies

Wrapping Up

Robust change management practice goes hand in hand with adoption of new project management tools and methodologies.

For starters, the benefits of “the change” must be well-accounted for and shared with the entire team and all impacted parties that includes your customers as well.

Secondly, the communication must also explain as to why the change, and why now and what’s in it for all involved.

Third, make sure to maintain consistency of efforts and stay true to the cause to ensure successful implementation.

All of these require a thorough assessment of current processes, depth of the impact of making the change and most importantly – “where to start the implementation.”

The smart thing to do is take an incremental approach and identify the quick wins. They may be small. But having a success story leads to higher adoption rates.

Whether it is your people, the management or the customer.

Look for specific aspects of your current project management practice. E.g.

  • time tracking measures
  • resource management capabilities
  • task management
  • expense tracking
  • project invoicing
  • defect management process
  • KPI, Executive dashboards & reporting efforts

Making improvements individually across these activities may at times need simultaneous tweaking in other processes too but then you would have killed two birds with one stone.

More importantly, you have greater control over the pace and manner in which you bake agility into your mainstream operations and the remote teams as well.

Sure, you would need a centralized tool that helps you drive the entire program, brings the team together and provides insights to act decisively.

Truth is an online single source of truth bodes well for transparency and generates confidence amongst all stakeholders. It also simplifies all your agile project management efforts and enables quick results.

Which tool do you rely on for agile project management and how adaptive are your remote teams?

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