Managing the Agile Workforce – Chapter 10: Ten Things To Do Differently

Over the past few months, we have shared the findings from our research into the Management of the Agile Workforce. The key discovery was that although the fundamental best practices for good management / leadership (and workership) within teams are not different whether the team is co-located or working virtually, the way we go about deploying the skills and activities need more thought and different approaches.

Our advice is to carefully assess the ways in which the workstyles / ways of working are different, identifying what is desirable about each method and ensuring that you pay attention to the aspects that you don’t want to lose. Then you can think about, plan and regularly review the methods by which you seek to keep those practices alive. For instance, if you have a daily face to face huddle in the office and find it helpful for co-ordinating tasks and connecting the team – then think about how you can replicate that when people are away from the office.

Our research on the productivity of knowledge workers also identified 6 factors (social cohesion, perceived supervisory support, vision & goal clarity, information sharing, external communications and trust) which are closely correlated to team performance. The key thing therefore is to keep your eye on these factors when you’re working apart and see how they could be damaged. Then talk with your team colleagues to see how you can protect those aspects from damage, so they can still flourish.

The following list is a quick summary of the highlights, and if you take nothing else from our blogs, please look at these and if you and your team don’t do them already, see how you can work them into your daily activities.

1 Spend time socialising with colleagues when you’re apart – stay in touch with what’s going on in their lives to build cohesion and closeness
2 Make your activities visible to colleagues – they can’t see you physically, so make sure they know what you’re doing and if you need support
3 Jointly agree how to run virtual meetings and use video to see how people are and how they react – we need more feedback when we are apart
4 Take responsibility for maintaining relationships – find out what colleagues need & share what you need – don’t leave it to chance
5 Overtly demonstrate you can be trusted by delivering on your promises –trustworthiness is more difficult to judge when you’re apart
6 Go out of your way to make information available to people – it’s harder to track information down when you’re working apart
7 Critically review your own communication style – without visual cues and careful listening, we overlook what helps or hinders others being their best
8 Make sure people know about your expertise – virtual teams have fewer opportunities to demonstrate/learn about each other’s knowledge and skills
9 Understand each other’s personalities and preferences – work on accommodating differences and not letting distance divide you
10 Make sure you see enough of your colleagues face-to-face – plan for it and make it happen so you don’t drift apart

And remember to revisit the list and anything else you plan to do, because we all fall into bad habits and forget about the things we used to do that served us well. Making this part of a regular team discussion is helpful – so you can discuss and agree what works well for you and what you need to change.

Next time, in our final blog of this series, we will look at the characteristics of successful remote/agile managers, by way of a summary of the research findings.