The agile team has returned home. Now what?


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Agile might mean software development, but it’s also about people. Because the goal of agile sprints is to incorporate feedback at rapid intervals to deliver what customers want. And the agile process itself works best with close collaboration between developer and stakeholder groups, also bringing together the IT development and operations teams when used in conjunction with DevOps. It is therefore not surprising that there is a strong correlation between a company’s growth and its agile capacity: 6 of the 7 main agile levers by impact were related to people. (My team has published recent research on this.)

A core tenet of Agile Transformation is using face-to-face interaction, which immediately vanished when the pandemic struck. However, the use of agility has actually increased over the past year or so as almost everyone is working remotely around the world. Reconciling these seemingly opposing developments presents an interesting challenge for companies. But it is not impossible.

Consider the following key agile levers, all of which impact people dynamics:

Labor and workspace levers

The use of agile virtual workspaces as well as digital collaboration platforms to support remote but collective and cohesive working has been a significant success factor. In my company, we conducted a study of our own employees just before and just before the pandemic, and it showed that when the first 3 or more agile sprints were conducted on site with workers coming into the office, it paved the way for l ‘asynchronous. the communication and remote work that followed. At the same time, the use of digitized visual Kanban dashboards as well as other collaboration accelerators have helped our remote teams make better decisions and operate as productively as when they were on site.

Cultural levers

Autonomous and self-managed teams are able to better focus on creating value, which improves the customer experience and return on investment. Likewise, self-organizing agile teams improve technology outcomes.

A hybrid working model can complicate this, however. When agile development moves from on-premise to remote – especially without warning, as was the case last year – teams risk losing visibility on the status of the various projects, their business and technical contexts, or even the paths of communication. Our experience has shown us that allowing early and gradual feedback to remote teams helps them stay on track or correct course in time when needed. It also coordinated the efforts of developers working on different parts of the same module and gave them a common goal.

The levers of the organization

Several companies have adopted agile processes and techniques outside of the IT function, in areas such as business operations, human resources, sales, and even law. This paves the way for effective collaboration across functional boundaries. Looking at our people, we find that cross-functional collaboration can work even in a remote or hybrid work situation. When we increased the proportion of cross-skills in our remote teams from 15% to 20%, they became as productive as in the office. Although this experience was limited to the IT function, there is every reason to believe that the results would be similar even when the skills crossed between functional lines are combined. Skills do not always have to be available internally; companies can even operate the odd-job economy quite effectively.

When it comes to applying agile principles to people in the hybrid workplace, here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you have enough digital visualization processes to help teleworkers catch up with their peers on site?
  • Do you offer frequent, incremental, and early feedback from feedback to remote work teams to help them stay tuned to the project vision?
  • Through iterative cycles of learning and agile work, are you creating safe virtual spaces where the team can learn from their mistakes and table requests in the absence of impromptu interactions?
  • Too much collaboration can reduce productive individual work time. Is your work culture aware of this potential pitfall?
  • Are your teams supported by peaks in “well-being” resulting from socio-emotional indices when they work in hybrid mode?

The bottom line

For companies with deep-rooted agile principles and practices, moving to a hybrid work model requires a significant adjustment. But with the right adaptation of practices and some changes in technology tools and platforms, functional skills and the structure and culture of the organization, agile teams can function in a manner comparable to what they were when they were. worked in the office.

Alok Uniyal is Vice President and Head of IT Process Consulting Practice at Infosys and specializes in helping organizations adopt new ways of working by leveraging Lean, Agile, DevOps and design thinking. He is also the spearhead of Agile and DevOps transformation within Infosys. (Twitter)


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