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Topics: Agile, Leadership, Virtual Teams
Agile Teams - That one team member....
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Yesterday I gave a presentation on how to stay Agile with Virtual Teams. It was a lot about communication, collaboration and motivation with virtual teams. During the discussion, I raised some eyebrows, made some jaws dropped, etc.

I was stressing how important was for the agile leader to build trust and communication among the team members. I said that you need to get to know your team members and that happens with conversations. Someone asked about handling that one team member that does not open up. That will not have discussions with not only the team, but even with you as the leader one on one.

My reply was to give it time. But if it doesn't happen in a few months, you may just need to find that team member a new project that is not agile. The team member will not work on agile projects without being able to build not just trust of knowledge, but trust in general. That comes with two way conversations during the various meetings. I told them that this is not a trust of skills. That is only a piece of it. I advised them to learn about dealing with personalities and find a way to help draw them out. Get them some training as well on improving their communication skills. Find some team building exercises to do. But at some point, you have to make adjustments.

Thoughts?
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First of all, there are not Agile something. For example, and after a lot of debate where I have the pleasure to participate, you will not see any reference to Agile something inside the new version of the PMBOK. Second, what you state is the same no matter the environment where project management is performed. As project managers we take a group and we need to transform it into a team. I am working with virtual teams from more than 25 years ago. Some of my initiatives involve people from more than 65 countries and most of them never meet face to face.
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Lisa -

I'd echo Sergio's feedback - regardless of the delivery approach taken, a PM needs to facilitate the integration and engagement of individual team members into the team as a whole. Even in projects following a waterfall approach it is possible to apply the mindset of "the team is the lowest level of granularity".

Having said that, I do agree with you that if after the PM and other team members have tried their utmost to integrate the "lone wolf" then steps will have to be taken to ensure that overall team performance is not impacted as a result of a single maverick.

Kiron
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Thanks for the comments.

I’m still confused over the nothing Agile. Why do we have PMI ACP then? I guess I need to read up on that as it sure wasn’t part of the exam just two weeks ago. Would love to be pointed to good resources on this.
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I'm glad you posted this, Lisa. It makes me think that potential team members need to be vetted to some degree before trying to form them into Agile teams, where interpersonal communication is vital. People who don't want to or can't communicate with others simply cannot function effectively as part of an Agile team. Such individuals would probably prefer Waterfall projects where they can receive assignments and due dates, and work on tasks that don't require interaction with others - I know a few Engineers who would love this arrangement.
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1 reply by Peter Ambrosy
Nov 04, 2017 9:49 AM
Peter Ambrosy
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Eric, communication is the oil that keeps the project machine running regardless of "agile" or " "waterfall". If a team member is not willing to improve his/her communication behavior (even after talks and specific improvement actions by the PM and/or other team members), the last exit is replacement for the benefit of the project.
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Nov 03, 2017 8:55 PM
Replying to Eric Simms
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I'm glad you posted this, Lisa. It makes me think that potential team members need to be vetted to some degree before trying to form them into Agile teams, where interpersonal communication is vital. People who don't want to or can't communicate with others simply cannot function effectively as part of an Agile team. Such individuals would probably prefer Waterfall projects where they can receive assignments and due dates, and work on tasks that don't require interaction with others - I know a few Engineers who would love this arrangement.
Eric, communication is the oil that keeps the project machine running regardless of "agile" or " "waterfall". If a team member is not willing to improve his/her communication behavior (even after talks and specific improvement actions by the PM and/or other team members), the last exit is replacement for the benefit of the project.
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Is this really the case? You treat team members with respect. You state that you are really listening to them. You create a safe environment to communicate. Then you are really listening to them - and they do refuse to communicate at all. I find that hard to believe.

Usually when line managers or project managers complain that people do not communicate it is due to either that they have created an environment where it is unsafe to communicate, or that the manager does not really listen to them.

If people have worked long enough in an environment where it is not safe to communicate, they might not trust the declaration that it is safe to communicate in this new project. Then the organisation and the project manager has a lot of work to do...

Naturally some people are more quiet and more shy than others. But everyone who has been able to graduate from high school or university communicate when they feel that it is safe to do so.

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