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InfoQ Homepage News How to Work Effectively with Agile in a Remote Team: Trust, Accountability and Communication

How to Work Effectively with Agile in a Remote Team: Trust, Accountability and Communication

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Distributed teams today are a norm in many organizations, but they can be challenging to run effectively. In a session titled Being Agile in a Remote Team at the recent Agile2018 conference in San Diego, Shane Hastie and Shannon Ewan addressed the topic of distributed agile teams and what makes them work. They discussed qualities of high performing teams, myths of remote teams and strategies to make remote teams work while sharing their story of how they work at ICAgile (a fully remote team and organization).

Would you consider these Myths or Facts?:

  • Remote teams are less effective - Myth!
  • Remote teams can't be innovative - Myth!
  • Remote teams are unable to become high performing - Myth!
  • Remote team members are less committed - Myth!
  • Remote teams can't work in an agile way - Myth!

Remote teams can bring more complexity, communication gaps, culture gaps, time zone challenges, skill gaps and lack of transparency -- if we let them. We can also thrive and bring many benefits of remote teams while addressing the challenges head on, and with success.

Remote teams can bring the following benefits:

  • Less overhead costs to the organization
  • More access to talent and skills
  • Around the clock coverage
  • Work/life balance for team and individuals
  • Increased time to think and focus

To get these benefits, leaders, individuals and teams must put the work in. Here are some tactical things leaders, teams and individuals can do to get good results with remote teams:


  • Understand the importance of recruiting the right people for remote teams
  • Start with trust when interacting with remote team members
  • Measure outcomes, not outputs
  • Allow time for social bonding
  • Try some experiments, see what works
  • Provide support needed, check in and ask what support is needed


  • Hold each other accountable
  • Have the hard conversations: "let's figure this out"
  • Find ways to create "water cooler" moments
  • Looks for opportunities to have fun together
  • Find a way to communicate your "focus state", letting others know if you are open to interruption
  • Establish team norms and adapt them
  • Be clear about levels of interaction and tools you will use, how to use them


  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Communicate, don't assume
  • Presume good intent in others
  • Understand how others like to communicate
  • Be clear about time (with time zones)
  • Professional appearance, use video
  • Take care of your health: walks, breaks, timeout, self care
  • Understand your teammates: culture, background, interests, motivations

The presenters suggested that these are useful great tips we all can use to tune up our remote teams and interactions!

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