How can remote & distributed teams maintain agility? Andy Young shares the big ideas from the latest episode of Talking Agility, featuring Kit Friend with host Elitsa Nacheva.

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for a remote working revolution. Accenture research found that 30 percent of people plan to work from home more often in the future. Further, 49 percent of people, who never worked from home before, plan to work from home regularly.

In other words, we have a unique opportunity to experiment with the benefits of remote working: to find out what works and what doesn’t, and discover what inspires employees and what puts people off. This silver linings approach lets us reimagine how to stay productive and connected when we are physically isolated.

We want people not to just chaotically and randomly try stuff, but see this as an opportunity to implement things properly. Whether it’s agile frameworks or proper use of digital tools.

—Kit Friend, senior principal with Accenture’s Technology Strategy & Advisory practice

So I’m pleased to share another episode of Talking Agility, one that looks at how people have adjusted to new ways of working. In it, Kit Friend joins Elitsa Nacheva to talk about how to maintain agility for remote and distributed teams.

Kit’s a self-described ‘agile addict’ and coaches some of the world’s leading organisations on their journey to enterprise agility. He’s an Agile Guide and Senior Principal with Accenture’s Technology Strategy and Advisory practice.

Here are some of the big ideas that I took away from the episode:

  • The shift to remote teams has shone a light on practices that may no longer fit. As Kit says about old-school training events, ‘I can’t see us going back to saying there’s a really clear case for flying 200 people [to sit in] the same room’.
  • Teams that already had a culture of clear communication, trust, and psychological safety have made the pivot to remote work more easily than teams that didn’t. In other words, if culture wasn’t a priority for leaders, it should be now.
  • Many organisations have undertaken digital initiatives very quickly, and many are experimenting with new digital tools. Kit cautions that while it’s an opportunity to try new things—tools, processes, frameworks—things still need to be implemented properly. Otherwise, what was a chaotic in-person team simply becomes a chaotic virtual team.

Using distributed agile isn’t new and being productive doesn’t rely on people being co-located. These ideas may be gaining more acceptance as people work remotely. However, there’s one key point: they require trust. Furthermore, agile working naturally emphasises empowerment and autonomy by putting decisions closer to the people doing the work. However, that autonomy needs to be aligned to the organisation’s rapidly changing priorities and exercised with equal accountability.

Finally, in remote working and distributed agile teams, it’s very easy for collaborative relationships and networks to narrow. Because people aren’t bumping into each other at work, there may be less serendipity. Accordingly, we need to build in time to connect as humans, both within and between teams. That’s good for agility and innovation—and also us as people.

To learn more, read Elitsa’s summary of her conversation with Kit Friend.

To learn more about enterprise agility and what it means for remote teams, please contact me here, or @andyyoungACN on Twitter.

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