Are you an Agile Leader in a Remote Transformation?

by | Apr 14, 2020

Working in an Agile Organization requires leadership front and centre to ensure there are seamless connections with all the components needed to be efficient, effective and adaptable.


by Anthony Mersino

Mr. Mersino goes into detail on this first of two-part article on what is needed to be an Agile Leader. Under normal circumstances being an Agile leader, although difficult, is easy to manage when the teams in an office are sitting around the same area, for the most part, as face to face communication and the ability to read body language easier to decipher the information. For the middle part of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have drastically changed. 

Remote work that was an occasional occurrence for some team members has now become a full-time thing. Previously there may have been one or two team members that worked from home full time while others were collocated. Leading a team like that has its challenges in finding out impediments or handling issues within the group itself, yet they were not insurmountable and could quickly adapt to how to make it work.

Now with an entire team, department, division spread across a geographical area, things can get dicey.

Mr. Mersino discusses four sections in this piece:

  1. Four Key Things Agile Leaders Do During an Agile Transformation – this includes establishing teams, shaping the environment, coaching, and leading organizational change.

  2. What Characteristics Do Agile Leaders Need

  3. How Leaders May be the Impediment to Transformation

  4. Action Steps for Agile Leaders

Let’s go through some with a team that has all remote members (Remote team implies they are still together in one location), including the Leader.

Four Key Things Agile Leaders Do During an Agile Transformation

Establishing the team

There isn’t much here that would need to change. The teams were already together and working before the pandemic. They know how each other works and, as a self-managed team, understands what needs to get done.

The good thing that this will help Leaders see is if there are any underlying issues with the team’s productivity. This new work environment will test a team’s focus as there are no faces to see by just turning your head and start talking. Now there are extra steps needed to open up applications and ping individuals to start that discussion. Here the Leader needs to ensure the team has a good set of guidelines that they all approve of and will institute while working through these new arrangements. Remember, and Agile Leader is a Servant Leader so you can provide ideas and help support them. Giving the team ownership of how they will do things will help with keeping motivation high.

Other Agile Leader activities like protecting the team do not change. Keeping the communications with everyone’s fluid will help keep the same level of protection as before.

Shaping the environment

With all team members remote, the environment is now a virtual one. Luckily there are enough tools out there that can create those virtual environments. Each person is going to have different workstations, like a dining room table, desk, side table on a balcony (when it gets warmer), so a leader will not have full control of that. What they do have some control is getting the team members to agree on how things they set up. One essential suggestion floating around for a long time with regards to remote work is how to dress for the day. The ongoing joke of working in your pyjamas is what people think of when others work from home. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable when working, and previously when it was an odd occurrence that people would be working from home, it was not a concern. Now things have changed. The suggestion is to dress like you would as if you are going into the office. There are a couple of positive outcomes when doing that: 1 – There will be a lot of video conferences and communications going on, so looking presentable throughout the day makes it easier to do. 2 – It is Psychological, dressing and keeping your regular routines as much as possible will get the brain in the right frame and ready for work. 

Another thing is re-creating the Obeya room with the use of tools or videos. Use tools to electronically provide the information that is generally in the room or have the team nominate someone to recreate the room at home and keep a camera on the data or contact the individual to walk through the “room” with the camera. Teams will struggle at first and will need to adapt to make it work. It can work.


This activity remains the same on how coaching is done, just through a different medium. The use of video calls and conferences is vital. Before where meetings conducted on a conference line, there would be distractions and an inability to see if people were paying attention. Seeing someone’s face as there is a discussion allows for constant focus on the conversation at hand. 

There are other issues with everyday conference calls; if you have not seen the parody YouTube video, I suggest you do. For your daily laugh break.

Lead through the change

When transforming to a full remote mode, it is essential to lead by example. Agreed upon guidelines and how to proceed, it is important to show everyone that you are with them throughout. 

Above all else, just like anything else, continuous improvement is vital and needs to see how things measure up in the new way of working. The one big positive of working through this pandemic is that it will create stronger ties with everyone on the team, improve communication and iron out any unseen issues that bubbled up. This current environment is an opportunity to innovate and improve. Obstacles found now will only make things better when the world gets past this. 

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