Can virtual teams do agile project management?

“Can virtual teams do agile project management?” This is a short video from scatterwork.com.

Let’s remind ourselves what agile project management is, using this description from MindTools: It’s built around a flexible approach; team members work in short bursts on small but functioning releases and then they test the releases against the customer needs, instead of aiming at some big deliverable right at the end of the project.

Our question is: “For virtual teams, what does this mean?”.

One of the requirements is team cohesion and one of the ways we can help this is to capitalize on face-to-face visits when the occasion arises. For example, a customer visit may bring people together, where a visit just for the sake of meeting may not be justifiable.

Another requirement of agile project management is trust and in the virtual team environment this can be helped by sponsors showing trust by visiting the team. This requires much less travel than if the entire team moves around it sends a message: look guys – you are important; we think so because we are taking the time out to visit you.

Another of the many requirements is informal communication: agile project management requires a lot of come and go of information and sometimes this is informal, but then we supplement it with documentation,particularly when we have a virtual team.

We capitalize, we summarize the status that was arrived at in one location so everybody gets the message. One of the ways of making sure this happens is to have visible process data, so instead of the various flip chart type presentations that are familiar in the agile environment, we need some sort of application that gives the same information but is accessible, usually through a browser.

So if you want to discuss these or other project issues, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to talking to you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Online Training for Project Management & Team Building.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Recommend Scatterwork and earn commission.

Culture Tips for Long Distance Business Relationships

This video is about culture tips for long distance business relationships.We mentioned before in another video that two complicating factors are time zones and cultures. Here we’re just picking a very small number of culture tips, which are not even prioritized. There are so many things that we can do in this area. The first tip is to devote time to personal introductions:Who are you? Where are you from? Have you family? All those sort of introductions tend to fall away when we just have electronic communication with somebody in the team somewhere else.By giving specific time where that can happen, a scheduled meeting can be a great idea. People can use their LinkedIn or Facebook pages and show that to the others which certainly helps break the ice.

A related tip is to learn about each other’s cultures. I was on programs in both India and Algeria that had been scheduled by head offices somewhere in Europe. On both occasions they were on the eve of big holidays. Naturally enough, the people I was working with wanted to close and go away in the middle of the day and this was completely ignored by the scheduling. If something is scheduled with no knowledge at all of the big festivals in the country,then that tends to send a very negative signal. Another little tip is to communicate spontaneously so that you actually talk from time to time.

One way of doing this is for example you’re working and you get a message over LinkedIn from somebody who comments on something that you said; then you know that they are active there and then. You can call back and you have a good chance of getting them. Scheduling meetings and so on can be very laborious but the spontaneity can be really nice. Another tip is to mix communication methods because skills in different languages vary. It could be that somebody writes well in one language but doesn’t speak it so well; or understands very well but doesn’t write very well and so on.

If for example we have a meeting by telephone or teleconference supported by slides with diagrams, work breakdown structures, Gantt charts or whatever and then afterwards we ask if there are questions and allow time for replies: maybe 24 hours. The questions might come back in written format,there might be a 2nd conference and so forth. This might seem to be “overkill”, that it’s too much. It is if everyone speaks the same language but it certainly is not if the team members speak various native languages. It allows people to latch in and genuinely understand what is happening.

The final tip is to get a good collaboration app such as Podio (or search for “alternatives for Podio”). You have a task that needs to be done; it goes into a database with a message saying “please do this” and then onto that you can hang messages, comments, documents, links etc. If you’re talking, you can click on the person’s image and up comes the video conference. This is much better than email where you have to think “what did that relate to?” and make a mental connection with the topic. Maybe the document you are talking about is somewhere else, so you loose a lot of time just jumping between one another.So clearly, there are dozens of things in this area that could be said but these are just a few short ideas. If any of this is of interest to you, please feel free to contact me. Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Living with diverse culture in Virtual Projects

 

Hello! This short video from Scatterwork focuses on living diverse culture in virtual projects and presents three survival hints.

The first is to recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch between, for example, people in different offices in different countries or different parts of the world is very, very high.

I’ve got here seven features that you might have which are different between two different offices, for example different delays between speaker and response.

In some cultures, when you speak you have to wait until the other person is finished and then you answer. And if you don’t they get a bit annoyed. But in other cultures the response comes and people talk at the same time. If these response habits don’t match, then you can have an uncomfortable situation.

Or maybe they use different dialing codes for telephone for international codes or different ways of writing the number down with plus and zero and so on.

May be different times of the year for changing between winter and summer time (that’s between winter time and daylight saving time). If it’s not at the same time of year you have a chance that meetings will not work properly because the time coordination wasn’t good.

So I’ve got seven features that may differ between two offices. Just imagine that there were five options for each of these, then we have have seven times by 5, that is 5 by 5 and so on combinations that could occur between these two offices, 78,000.

The point is that there are so many different options that you’ve got a good chance of hitting one of them and of course you always hit it by mistake.

So then the next survival hint is if this happens not to react immediately to an unexpected response. If you get something you don’t expect and you react immediately then you have a good chance the other person will not be very comfortable. But if on the other hand you delay your response,, they might think “why isn’t he answering?”. A delay is less likely to end up in a conflict situation.

And I remember one time long ago presenting an unexpected situation to a friend of mine and instead of reacting, he just stopped for a few seconds and then he said “…………..O.K.”.

By doing it that way you avoid the row.

And then the third survival hint is to introduce extra process steps for improved reliability. For example don’t just rely on an email
“please send me so-and-so” but then follow it up with a phone call and read through the email together and listen.

It may be that was said or what was written down wasn’t exactly what you thought or maybe maybe the right thing was written down in you misinterpreted it. So by having two steps you have a
better chance of compensating for this complexity.

So there you have it: three things:

one is recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch are very, very, very high;

and then if you get some sort of funny response or something you’re not expecting, wait give yourself a bit of time before reacting;

and then the third one is to introduce extra process steps for reliability. Don’t overdo it but don’t assume that what works in the single culture environment will actually also work in a multicultural environment.

So if you’re interested in discussing your own project issues, please connect with me by any of the usual methods: through the website at scatterwork.com, newsletter, LinkedIn, telephone, email and so on.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Preparation is key to successful Virtual Phase Reviews

This is another short video from Scatterwork, this time about preparation being the key to successful virtual phase reviews for virtual projects.

A very well tried and tested feature of projects is to work in phases. Instead of giving the project manager a go ahead for the entire project, we say: “Please do these deliverables and then come back to us with your updated plan”.

This is a really good idea because it gives an opportunity for the stakeholders to review the direction of the project and even to change it without having to undo work.The people doing the project have a fixed scope during the phase so they have some reasonable chance of hitting the target. Also it protects the project from daily changes of direction and scope. So the same applies to virtual projects.

The difference is that in a meeting when people are sitting together is relatively informal and items that are missing can be found quickly, can be searched for, brought into the room and so forth.

With a virtual meeting it’s much more important that the background has been set up properly, that for example, everybody is sure of the time zone, they all have microphones that work, and they are comfortable with the technology you’re using.

Personally I prefer web meetings. These are far more flexible than video meetings and they use less bandwidth so they’re more reliable.

Also once people have had a little bit of communication face-to-face, maybe at the beginning with the cameras, then it actually works better, the focus is better, if we shared the screen with various slides and information of things that we want to talk about.

So the point about all this is that this background preparation does require extra work.

We can’t just do it informally as we go along, but if we do it properly then this is indeed the key to successful virtual phase meetings.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Charter your way to success!

Hello, this is another short video from Scatterwork where we ask: “Is your project charter the key to virtual project success?”

I always say, when you’re asked to do a project: do this, do that, meet this constraint for that budget and so forth, the first thing we need to do is not to start, but it is to check that we understand what is being asked.

It may be that the person asking has a very clear idea and we misunderstand it or it could be that they themselves haven’t a very clear idea so it makes a lot of sense to check and the best way I know of doing this is called a charter where we write it all down and say “hey, is that what you meant ?”

So in the charter, which is not the plan, we include for example what they’re expecting, constraints, we must do this, we must not do that, this is the budget, this is why I’m doing it and so forth and it should be maybe a page or two.

Now, this is true for any project.The first step we check that they say “that’s what we want” and then we can go away and look at it as project managers and say yes, we can certainly do that or maybe no, but here’s another one that would come close.

In the virtual world, I can’t see how a project can deliver unless there is at least agreement on this level. So it’s a very short document a couple of pages it can be put together by using a type of application that allows several people to write at once; things like your Google Documents for example. Preparing a document where everyone’s concerns are there means that we know what our starting point is.

So I would answer the question and say yes, the project charter is the key to virtual project success.

Thank you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.