Why agile teams are more successful
in virtual collaboration
Reading time: 5 minutes
The more adaptable a person is, the better they can cope with change and the faster they can adapt to new living conditions. This also applies to the world of work, which is currently undergoing a powerful transformation due to digitalisation. More and more tasks are being shifted to the digital world, home office options or hybrid working models are available in almost every company, and teamwork is no longer tied to location.
Purely virtual teamwork works particularly well in agile teams. This was particularly evident during the Corona crisis when companies had to adapt their working and organisational structures quickly. Companies that had already embraced the values of agile collaboration could respond to the problem much more rapidly.
The four values:
1. People and interactions come first. This means that employees not only carry out work processes but also help shape them and respond to customer needs and changing tasks.1
2. Well-functioning products and innovations are more important than documentation. Correct documentation is still important, but it is reduced to a minimum to give staff the freedom and time to focus on the important processes.2
3. The focus is on customer satisfaction. Rather than quickly signing a contract, the customer should be involved in the process to meet their needs best.3
4. Flexibility is more important than sticking to plans. In an agile environment, teams and all stakeholders need to be able to react quickly and change plans as required, either to meet customer needs correctly or to drive products and innovation forward.4
Agile principles for collaboration in a virtual team
In summary, the agile principles for working together in a virtual team are as follows:
Transparency in all work processes: What is the next step, and who is responsible for what?
Tasks must be manageable and have a timetable, so everyone knows when to complete them.
Communication between all team members must be open, honest and regular.
Leaders meet their team members at eye level, involve them in decisions and give them independent responsibility.
A relationship of trust within the team and between team members and leader is essential.5
These factors are interrelated, and it is not enough to consider and implement just one or two. Why this is so will become clear when we look closely at agile collaboration in virtual teams.
Agile collaboration factors that make virtual teams successful:
The leader: In agile virtual teams, the leader takes on more of a coaching role rather than controlling every step of the team from the top.6 The manager ensures that the framework is in place for the team to be flexible, self-motivated and accountable, but with open and honest communication.
Regular communication: Because an agile virtual team must be self-directed, all team members must be in constant contact with each other to know what needs to be done and who is working on what. This has an extremely positive effect on collaboration, as virtual teams do not have people sitting across from each other, which can affect the sense of togetherness and productivity. Conversely, if there is little or no hierarchical interaction, no one knows which team member might need help, which tasks have already been completed, and what the next important steps are. On the other hand, an agile team can act faster by communicating immediately with the right person and maintaining social interaction despite physical distance.7
A healthy culture of failure and open communication: Agile teams typically work in cycles, each of which ends with a detailed and lengthy feedback discussion.8 Agile virtual teams are used to such discussions, making addressing issues and resolving problems easier.
Task transparency: Agile virtual teams make task allocation and work progress open and accessible to all.9 This transparency of tasks has the advantage of keeping each team member fully informed and increasing productivity but also allows new team members, or those who have left the team for health or other reasons, to (re)enter the team smoothly.
Ownership and motivation: All the factors mentioned so far enable each team member to work independently. Personal responsibility does not only mean working alone on a task. It also means being able to contact other members independently when problems or difficulties arise and knowing who to turn to for support.10
Ultimately, successful collaboration in virtual teams requires both the implementation of agile principles and open, transparent and regular communication. The benefits are clear – agile teams can respond more quickly to change and encourage individual accountability. As a result, virtual teams collaborate more successfully and achieve measurably better outcomes.
Virtual collaboration in agile teams has proven to be very successful. By implementing agile principles and focusing on transparency, regular sharing, open communication, a healthy failure culture, task transparency, ownership and motivation, virtual teams can work more efficiently and achieve better results. During the Corona crisis, it became clear that companies that relied on agile collaboration could respond more quickly to changing circumstances. Virtual collaboration in agile teams is, therefore a forward-looking solution for the world of work.
1 Agile Manifesto (n.d.). Agile Manifesto. Verfügbar unter: https://agilemanifesto.org/
2 Cockburn, A. (2001). Agile Documentation: A Pattern Guide to Producing Lightweight Documents for Software Projects.
3 Schuh, G., & Hall, J. (2016). A Customer-Centric Approach: Agile Methodology. Journal of Business Strategy, 37(1), 37-45.
4 Highsmith, J. (2009). Agile Software Development: The Business of Innovation. Addison-Wesley Professional.
5 Cprime. (n.d.). 10 Principles for Agile Team Success. Verfügbar unter: https://www.cprime.com/resources/what-is-agile-what-are-agile-values-principles/
6 Galen, R. S. (2013). Agile Leadership: A Leader’s Guide to Orchestrating Agile Strategy, Product Quality and IT Governance. Van Haren Publishing.
7 Kelleher, D., & Conboy, K. (2019). Agile Collaboration: The 12 Essential Principles for Success. Springer.
8 Derby, E., & Larsen, D. (2014). Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. Pragmatic Bookshelf.
9 Highsmith, J. (2004). Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products. Addison-Wesley Professional.
10 Knight, R. A., & De Luque, M. S. (2015). The Power of Autonomy in the Agile Team. Organizational Dynamics, 44(1), 58-64.