5 tips on how to build agile teams in the new workplace

As business leaders begin looking into ways to become more agile in the workplace, we're diving into how they can effectively create agile teams for any given project.

Given the pandemic-driven, drastic change in the workplace, business leaders should rethink how to build and optimize agile teams.

The wide dependence upon -- and acceptance of -- collaborative technologies, along with the growth of remote work strategies across an entire organization, gives new meaning to the word "agile." Most organizations originally used the agile teams concept for software development, but it's also appropriate for numerous business activities including marketing strategy development, HR assistance during open-enrollment periods and CX improvement in the contact center, just to name a few.

When thinking about how to build an agile team, redefine the definition from a software or product development methodology to a more flexible approach to any problem-solving in the organization. What's more, broaden the thinking around who should be on any given team, because with collaboration technologies and work-from-anywhere strategies, the possibilities are limitless.

The following are five tips for business leaders on how to build agile teams in the new workplace.

1. Start with the end goal

As you're building an agile team to work on any project, start with the end goal. What are you trying to achieve and what skills, technology and hours do you need to meet the goal? Only then can you build the team.

Skills from team members may range from customer engagement experience to legal expertise to software development. Given the demanding timeframe of the project, you may need a team from within multiple time zones to extend the workday. Or with work-from-anywhere now widely accepted, perhaps some employees would select to work odd hours. Knowing the team will be working in different time zones or off-hours, you'll need team collaboration workspaces to keep everyone engaged and updated on the progress.

2. Train the team

Once you've selected the team, the members need proper leadership to get started. Depending on your business culture,  employees may be shy about sharing ideas ("What if they don't like them, or if I don't get credit for them?"), sharing workload ("If I want it done right, I have to do it.") or asking for help ("I'm out of my league, but if I ask for help, I'll look stupid.").

Set the ground rules to build a strong foundation. Make sure the team knows that change is constant and they can't map out the path to get to the end goal. They need to work as a team, be flexible and accepting of change, report on progress in short intervals and check their egos at the door.

3. Make sure technology is an enabler

Though in-person meetings certainly have value during projects, employees are often more productive working from home offices -- providing they have the necessary technology. For example, collaboration capabilities are imperative to success. The ability to launch an on-the-spot video or screen share, use a digital whiteboard to brainstorm or exchange ideas with team members via perpetual chat in a team workspace can drastically improve the creativity and timeliness of a project.

Think of how much more responsive to change employees can be with the right technology enablers. For instance, use the technology to help put structure around the project. There should be regularly scheduled meetings, but also the ability to start an ad hoc meeting. Project management automation can remind people on regular intervals to update the team in the workspace. This eliminates the tendency to work in a bubble rather than collaborating with the team.

4. Failure is … good?

Agility, by definition, is the ability to move -- or change -- quickly and easily. Therefore, agile teams can't get bogged down by failure. Rather, they need to embrace that failure will occur, sometimes at multiple steps along the way. This usually is a good thing because we learn from failure and we improve with failure. And by breaking projects into short pieces, it's easier to uncover and resolve failure along the way.

Good leaders will use failure as a teachable moment.

5. Reward success

Even though failure along the way can be good, ultimate success is the goal. Business leaders and employees have to rethink what defines success.

For example, one company added AI-enabled virtual assistants to guide customers through a self-service knowledge base in a very quick turnaround at the start of the pandemic. During the project, the confident team decided to open the new technology to a trial audience and found terrible ratings. Why? Because they only identified four spots along the customer journey when customers needed to escalate to a live agent, and they realized there were actually eight spots.

So, there were two points of failure: missing four points of escalation and opening the technology to customers without telling them it was a trial. As a result, they slammed the company with low ratings, affecting overall customer satisfaction scores.

Through that failure, though, they were able to improve the self-service program. They developed a new process for customer testing of new technology with focus groups versus randomly making it available. As a result, they found another two points of escalation they hadn't yet uncovered. And, for the future, they now know how to get customer feedback without affecting their ratings. Once they released the revised program to customers at large, their ratings increased even more.

Ultimately, the project was successful, and the team should be rewarded. But individually, business leaders should call out those who made and fixed the points of failure.

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