Agile Collaboration in a Virtual World: Takeaways from PMI Global Congress North America

With over a third of projects being agile and more work being done by virtual teams, we aimed to look at how project managers can successfully combine the two. Having combined our expertise in managing distributed teams, we came up with a few practical, battlefield-tested tips in the area of communication practices, Web 2.0 tools and beyond, which can help bridge the gap for agile teams working across geographic boundaries.

In the first part of the session, Cornelius started with a case study of his own team, spread across 6 countries on 3 continents, and shared which tools and practices help them the most to collaborate efficiently. For instance, according to the experience of Cornelius' team, the best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

There's no doubt that virtual teams have some very strong benefits, but there are certain serious bottlenecks, too, like the risk of miscommunication, limited visibility, etc. In my part of the session, I highlighted 5 pain-relievers that help me overcome the most common challenges in managing my team. Some additional tips came up during the Q&A. For example, when your team members speak different languages, don't let accents influence your perception of a professional. This is especially critical in the initial conversations, when team members don’t know each other yet and haven't yet built social and professional trust. Make sure that you give your team members "trust credit" in this initial phase, and always remember that behind that email ID is a real person, who likely works as hard as you do and is as professional as you are. It’s also crucial to remember and respect the cultural differences, and while keeping this in mind, work toward building a shared culture. Last but not least, as with everything else, it’s hard to create an ideal collaboration pattern right from the start. However, if you keep your eyes and mind open, constantly communicate and gather feedback from your team members, you can continuously iterate and improve. Eventually, you'll find your secret sauce for efficient remote teamwork.

I believe that one of the main prerequisites for the success of a distributed team is to make sure that everyone is on the same page – not only in terms of the assigned tasks, but also the general vision, applied processes, cultural awareness, information sharing and trust. It’ll be extremely helpful for team members to know not just what to do, but why and what lies ahead. This will help a lot in asynchronous communications, when you’re not immediately available to answer all of their questions and course correct. You have to think and communicate proactively in distributed teams, making sure you’re your team shares the same mission and vision, and understands the goals. So meetings in virtual teams are very important. Not only are they important, they are different, and in the final part of our session Elizabeth named some important techniques for making virtual meetings productive.

I’ve posted our joint slide deck on Slideshare, so that you can adapt some of these practical takeaways to your team:

To learn more details about our session and other ones, too, you can also check out recent tweets with the hash tag #pminac. Here are a couple of them:

@pm4girls: "Don't just give them tasks, give them reasons to help them understand vision and goals" @wrike talking about empowering teams at #pminac

@LewisCindy: From @wrike don't let accents influence emotional feelings about the person. Nice reminder #pminac

By the way, Wrike has just opened an interesting survey about remote work and the way workers see its benefits and challenges. I would really appreciate if you could spend a few minutes to have your say in this survey. As soon as we get enough responses, I’ll analyze the results and share them with you.

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