Hello everybody and welcome to the Cognixia Podcast! Thank you for tuning in today. Every week we bring you an interesting topic in our podcast that aims to get you thinking and inspire you to learn something new that would help you move ahead in your career, or just fire up that curiosity.
This week we talk about a challenge a lot of Scrum Masters face these days – managing distributed teams. In the post-covid world. Having distributed teams are commonplace. Geographical boundaries and physical presence are no longer important to get work done. A rigid manifesto would lead to utter failure in such a scenario. But the agile methodology has always been flexible and adaptable to changing times and changing needs, thankfully.
Undoubtedly, the Scrum Master is one of the most critical roles in an agile organization. So, the pressure and challenge of managing distributed teams also fall on the shoulders of the Scrum Master.
So, we figured, maybe we could help ease this out. That’s why, in today’s episode, we talk about some best practices that would help Scrum Masters better manage distributed teams. Here are some of the best practices we recommend.
Top 10 Best Practices for Scrum Masters
This sounds straightforward, but we can assure you, it is one of the most important things a Scrum Master can do when managing distributed teams. Everybody is trying to do their best, and lending a listening ear could help your team feel more comfortable, cared for, important, and supported. It will also help the team maintain momentum and be on track to achieve the set goals.
Value All Stakeholders
Customers are important and so are employees. In a nutshell, all stakeholders are important and contribute in their unique ways to the overall success of the project as well as the accomplishment of the tasks. No stakeholder – be it an employee or a customer. It could be a challenge to balance the interests of everybody but that’s part of the job of the Scrum Master, isn’t it? The secret to success here – listen and make sure everybody feels valued, address their concerns as much as possible, talk to them, keep in touch, encourage, and support them.
Convert Ideas to Achievable Goals
If not translating into actionable and achievable goals, good ideas are just that, ideas. The Scrum Master would need to identify and communicate how the ideas could be aligned and help the team. For instance, if the idea is to have the Scrum team work smartly, the goals could be something like writing clean code, improving teamwork, etc.
Keep the Hierarchy Flat
Hierarchies are an integral part of organizations. This is especially common in agile setups. One major drawback of having steep hierarchies is that team members often get more focused on climbing up this hierarchy ladder, and in the process goals and objectives can sometimes take a back seat. The Scrum Master would need to remember that they are not team leads, instead, their role focuses more on managing and facilitating team communications. If they focus on keeping the hierarchy as flat as possible, the focus can be maintained on the goals and objectives that the team needs to attain.
Are the team members happy?
When managing distributed teams, having sprint retrospectives and reviews could be a fantastic means to ensure that the team members are happy and satisfied with their work. Happy, satisfied employees translate to better productivity, smoother operations, and better efficiency, which will eventually lead to happier customers. It is important that all team members feel guided, supported, and appreciated, no matter what role they play in the team or where they are located.
Bring in the Agile Toolbox
Agile tools are extremely helpful and indispensable for a Scrum Master. A Scrum Master’s role isn’t exactly a cakewalk, and having to manage various team members who are working remotely from different locations and geographies can be quite a challenge. Agile tools come in very handy in this situation. Agile tools encourage better communication and help establish connections that are virtual but still very real. For instance, Scrum Masters can use virtual meetings or team space tools to drive team engagement, assess every team member’s workspace, and build plans for what’s next together.
Review and Improve
Work status would need to be reviewed regularly and based on the findings; the team can improve. The Scrum Master must encourage the team members to take all due steps to build resilience and improve effectiveness. When the appropriate steps are taken at the right time and implemented effectively, they could do wonders for distributed teams while also making managing them a lot simpler and easier. So, keep reviewing and keep improving!
Flexibility is essential in everything that happens in an organization, especially in the fast-paced competitive times we live in today. Agile makes flexibility a lot more accessible and achievable. Flexibility can help organizations survive disruptions, like the Covid-19 pandemic everyone is just emerging out of. For everything that a team does, the Scrum Master should always have an eye on it, assess the situation, and recommend changes, as required. With distributed teams, the work culture that was the norm earlier with on-site teams no longer works as effectively. It is the Scrum Master who would work as a bridge between the old and the new.
Usher in the Creativity
New problems require one to be creative and find new solutions. The world is surging ahead at a much faster pace than anybody ever imagined, and being creative is essential to keep up with these changing times. Being innovative and thinking out of the box is the need of the hour. Mundane tasks such as sprint retrospectives can be made fun of by changing formats or involving some games, etc. This would also help the Scrum Master as well as other team members express themselves while also sharing some constructive feedback without anyone feeling offended.
Automate and Digitalize
Routine tasks can get monotonous but bringing in some digitalization and automation will definitely help make things so much better. When these monotonous tasks get automated, the team members’ bandwidth is freed up and they can focus on tasks that require their real attention and effort. Working remotely can often push up stress levels among team members, so a little digitalization and automation can help reduce workloads and ease out the stress for the employees significantly.
Now, that are ten super best practices that Scrum Masters everywhere can follow and implement to effectively manage distributed teams. When Agile methodology first came out, it was something intended for use by software companies and IT teams. However, it is important to understand that the foundation of Agile is based on widely-accepted, established values and principles. It is based on the wisdom and knowledge that has been collected by professionals and practitioners over the decades. Agile does not stand for rigid rules that make it suffocating for everyone to function in these changing times. Rather, Agile is intended to help everyone perform better, its principles and ideas can be adapted to suit every organization and there is really no one right way.
So, what do you think about embracing Agile to manage distributed teams? Do you have any other best practices that you would like to add to this list? Do share your thoughts and feedback with us on any of our social media handles.
And with that, we come to the end of this week’s podcast. We hope you found it useful and that we can help you in some way. Thank you for listening to us today. We will be back next week with another interesting episode for all of you. Until next week then!