By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

There’s an ocean of difference between distributed teams and distributed agile teams. A distributed team can work together to accomplish a goal, but it might take them a little extra time beyond the norm. They’re used to sitting down in a conference room and hashing out a project. Given close proximity in the workplace, these teams might be second to none in turning around tasks. Distance is a minor wrench in the gears—something they can overcome, but an obstacle nevertheless.

A distributed agile team? Members are veritable superheroes. These groups work fluidly to accomplish tasks with rapidity and accuracy. They’re not just comfortable as part of a team—they’re in their element when working remote, and it’s far from a hindrance to their collaborative abilities.

What is a distributed agile team?

Think about your workplace and the diverse workspaces that comprise it. The most effective teams use all these workplaces to get work done quickly, efficiently, and with few barriers. They meet in conference rooms, commune in breakout spaces, do individual heads-down work at hot desks, and utilize the office as a resource. These are your agile teams—always on-the-go, always working hard.

Distributed agile teams accomplish this same level of synergy and immersion online, digitally. They hop effortlessly between chat programs, project management apps, cloud documents, and other digital resources, to accomplish tasks quickly. Moreover, they do it as part of a group. It’s not just one or two people rockin’ and rollin’—it’s groups that get work done. Mason collaborates with Jack in a Slack channel, while Jack and Petra edit a Google Doc, while Petra and Mason update the group project log. It’s total group immersion in a digital capacity.

10 traits of distributed agile teams

The synergies of agile groups are the culmination of a set of important traits. Here’s a look at 10 traits of agile distributed teams and how they’re able to achieve the level of success they do outside of the traditional workplace.

  1. Accountability: Personal accountability to themselves and the group.
  2. Flexibility: Willingness to change or deviate from routine to help others.
  3. Adaptability: The ability to accommodate new and unforeseen challenges.
  4. Anticipation: Seeing past the immediate task, to the greater goal of the group
  5. Organization: Keeping information, tasks and responsibilities orderly.
  6. Empathy: The human element that’s required for success in groups.
  7. Prioritization: The ability to determine what takes precedence (macro and micro).
  8. Communication: Being clear, concise, and thorough in sharing information.
  9. Camaraderie: An inclusion dynamic, shared by everyone in the group as a bond.
  10. Understanding: Knowledge of objectives and goals, both personal and as a group.

Each of these traits rolls into distributed agile team best practices. Karen’s organization empowers Jaime to be adaptable, which helps Michael better-prioritize his role in the group, and so on, and so forth. As each member embraces these traits, they support the group dynamic and uplift the team.

How to foster distributed agile teams

Agility doesn’t come to distributed teams without a little help. There are three chief variables that allow distributed teams to develop agility:

  1. Good leadership: Leaders empower their distributed teams to develop agility. Good leaders connect the dots between team members, bridge gaps in collaboration, and concentrate the focus of the group.
  2. Technology resources: Technology takes the place of the physical workplace, to provide agility to distributed teams in the way diverse workspaces would in the office. A suite of digital technologies improves communication and collaboration, leading to agility.
  3. Objectives and expectations: With the entire team focused on the same goal, there’s a sense of accountability. Each group member is accountable as part of the group and they understand their role in its ultimate success.

Focus on these three elements to foster a distributed agile team. Each ingredient enables the 10 traits listed above and helps distributed employees to recognize the opportunity for synergies as they interact with peers in new capacities.

The effectiveness of distributed agile teams

There’s a theory out there called the “Unattainable Triangle.” It says that in a world where everyone wants all three, you can only pick two: quickness, quality, or affordability. But this paradox might’ve met its match thanks to distributed agile teams.

Distributed agile benefits encompass all three. These teams work with unrivaled quickness, they’re empowered to do a good job, and their efficiency adds up to saved costs for employers. It’s a win-win-win situation! But that’s exactly why distributed agile teams are so elusive. To reap these advantages, employers need to enable them.

Keep reading: What Is A Distributed Team? Plus Collaboration Solutions