How to Create Agile Teams in the Age of Remote Work

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The world is enduring the government mandate to work from home over the past few months.


When the whole world has been put on hold, organizational growth is taking a backseat as every company is just scrambling to survive. As such, organizations today are now operating on a new mantra – agility.


The is no known playbook for the current dynamics that were brought about by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. This black swan event has become the catalyst that has forced organizations to reinvent, reimagine, and reinvigorate their own business models.


Companies have to rapidly change their business strategies to remain resilient.


Matthieu Pellerin, founder and head of Google’s Growth Lab, noted that “The more agile we can be, the better we can address our users’ needs and deliver helpful information and experiences.”


Here are several steps that the company has taken to grapple the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:


·   Prioritize: Conducting the “stop, start, continue” exercise.

Organizations need to focus on their core operations and stop anything that is not urgently required. They should also start adjusting to COVID-19 work arrangements and proceed with doing COVID-19 related work.


·   Adapt: Empowering teams to get critical messages out to as many as possible.

Companies need to adapt to the crisis and streamline the organization’s system of approval, deployments, and launches. They should be transparent in their communication with stakeholders during this critical time.


·   Shift: Ensuring that the company is addressing the needs of its users.

A crisis should never become an avenue for self-promotion or upselling. Companies should ensure that they address the needs of their consumers by shifting their campaigns in observance to the current environment. 


Instilling the Agile Mindset for the Organization


The unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has created so much uncertainty for organizations and their stakeholders. Thus, institutionalizing an agile mindset for the organization is essential to establish speed, innovation, and greater customer focus for organizations.


A Forbes article noted several benefits of instilling an agile mindset for the organization:


BENEFIT 1: Agile provides rhythm and cadence for work.

In times of uncertainty and ambiguity, an agile mindset will provide regular work patterns to help employees move forward and prioritize. Simple work rituals such as weekly video meetings or just a catch-up meeting among colleagues will bring about a positive state of mind and provide a sense of normalcy for employees.


BENEFIT 2: Agile allows for quick shifts.

Agility is essential when organizations are making quick adjustments to their campaigns, approaches, or even the actual nature of work. The agile mindset will help “deconstruct” work and help employees accomplish tasks one piece at a time. Agile provides smooth priority shifts since work has been planned in smaller portions and over shorter periods.


BENEFIT 3: Agile is empowering.

The agile methodology allows team members to make decisions at the moment rather than waiting and asking the management to weigh in. The ability of employees to make necessary decisions will ensure the speed and responsiveness that the customer needs in times of crisis.


Leading remote teams with agility


When all employees work remotely, make sure that the company is helping with remote interactions that make the company culture prosper. Virtual connections will work just fine when employees are committed to getting the job done. Here are several tips on how organizations can incorporate an agile mindset:


TIP 1: Time-box tasks.

Employees can establish a fixed maximum time to accomplish their major tasks. Time-boxing tasks will help ensure that nothing takes longer than it should to finish certain tasks. It also creates a sense of urgency for tasks with a higher level of priority.


TIP 2: Inspect and adapt.

Employees need to continually inspect the quality of their work and adapt accordingly. They can partner with a team member to monitor work output and make the necessary corrections. Constant feedback and improvements will ensure that consumers will get what they need even as work conditions constantly change.


TIP 3: Pause and learn.

An agile organization will normalize the need for reviews and retrospectives. Rather than ticking off a checklist of tasks, teams are also encouraged to pause, reflect, and ensure that they are constantly learning and adjusting as necessary. Supporting a level-headed assessment is essential during a crisis, especially in cases when nothing seems predictable.


TIP 4: Take a simple, ordered approach.

An agile mindset will empower teams to make the next right decision again and again. Remote work can become overwhelming during a prolonged period. One straightforward solution is to make a list of priorities that needs to be accomplished. This simple approach is a smart response to an employee’s need for control and order.


Another Forbes article listed several ways on how remote team leaders can tap their team’s full potential while adjusting to an agile remote work strategy:


·   Purpose-led briefings.

Some remote workers may often miss out on seeing the “bigger picture” amidst the crisis. It’s easy to get right into solving immediate problems while failing to prioritize. Always begin briefings with the target stakeholders in mind then create priorities that are relevant to them. It’s also crucial to be specific with the list of tasks and desired outcomes for employees.


·   Create a vision with concrete ways on how to get there.

Now that remote work has become the new normal; it’s critical for management to be more concise on where they want to lead the company and how they will go about it. The management needs to be clear on expectations and milestones, but they should also give their team the autonomy to figure things out.


·   Lead with a clear narrative.

An organization’s vision and purpose will not have a profound impact unless delivered with a story. Creating a compelling story will help stakeholders understand the bigger picture and their role in it. Amidst the COVID-19 upheaval, organizations need to stand out by crafting a memorable narrative for their stakeholders.


Sustaining the growth of an agile team


Leading an agile remote workforce requires a significant change in the organization’s culture and the way employees get things done. Without the usual face-to-face interaction, it can be harder for the management to sustain a culture of camaraderie and trust among the remote teams.


Now more than ever, organizations need a capable management team that will help navigate the firm to inspire creativity and innovation amidst the new normal of the post-COVID-19 world.


McKinsey and Company recommended several guidelines to sustain the growth of an agile workforce:


·   Revisit the norms and ground rules for interaction.

Video chats and instant messaging tools can be used for effective remote workplace collaboration. However, using these new tools regularly will require the organization to reassess the existing norms and agreed-upon ground rules for interaction.


New ground rules for communicating may be needed to make collaboration easier and keep people who are interacting virtually from talking over one another during a video meeting. Something as simple as asking each speaker to “pass the ball” by calling out the next presenter will help a great deal.


·   Cultivate bonds that encourage employee morale.

Organizations need to encourage activities that nurture morale for their remote workers. Simple things like casual lunches or impromptu coffee breaks are not possible in a virtual work environment. Agile teams that work remotely make a conscious effort to be social, polite, precise, and courteous. This will ensure that everyone will feel just as safe contributing and collaborating remotely as they did in person.


·   Adapt coaching and development.

With coaching, agile teams should seek to imitate remotely everything they would have done in person, but with more frequency given the abruptness of the switch to remote work. For example, if employees are used to one-on-one coaching over coffee, they should also try doing it remotely. Coaches and mentors should also encourage all team members to turn on their video and actively monitor body language during group meetings.


·   Recalibrate processes.

The challenge with remote work is that employees will be tempted to try to replicate exactly what worked for them in an actual office setup. Employees need to remember that what worked in an office setting would not necessarily work with a remote work setup. The key is to adapt to the situation rather than sticking to a set of arbitrary rules.


·   Adjust to asynchronous collaboration.

Asynchronous communications, like message boards and group chats, can be a useful tool to coordinate with agile teams remotely. A dedicated messaging channel where team members can submit their updates can be advantageous. It can allow team members to raise red flags at any point during the day and provide an avenue to raise concerns.


However, asynchronous communication needs to be used carefully and in moderation. Teams that become overly reliant on asynchronous channels may leave some team members isolated, and trust among them may suffer.


·   Adopt a new leadership approach.

Organizational leaders need to be more deliberate when engaging with team members, especially with remote workers, where they have limited in-person interaction. Agile team leaders need to be more proactive at guiding their own team members.


Leaders need to be more purposeful at engaging stakeholders. They should also be transparent and reassuring in their communication about team objectives and performance. Above all, organizational leaders need to show both in their tone and approach, that everyone is in this together. In other words, they need to be the glue that unites everyone together.


Content Hacker is here to help organizations the complexities of creating and working with an agile remote workforce.  


It’s essential for the organization to still remain fully functional despite the sudden transition to a work from home setup. As seasoned remote workers, we can provide expert advice for small firms on how to work remotely, and at the same time, we can also help your firm market and sell in times of crisis.


Schedule a free consultation and get in touch now!



Brower, T. (2020). Why Agile Is The Mindset To Get Us Through The COVID Crisis: 4 Lessons From Agile For Today And The New Normal. Forbes. Retrieved 28 May 2020, from

Inside Google Marketing: Agility is the new growth. (2020). Think with Google. Retrieved 28 May 2020, from 

Nour, D. (2020). Leading Remote Teams With Agile Alignment. Forbes. Retrieved 28 May 2020, from 

Revisiting Agile teams after an abrupt shift to remote. (n.d.). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 6 June 2020 from 

Noleen Marie Ramos

July 29, 2020

Noleen Marie Ramos

Neen Ramos loves to devour pop culture and random stuff on the Internet. A lover of good books and coffee, her Spotify playlist keeps her sane as she juggles her work and TV show marathons.

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