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Building an Agile Remote Team Is No Easy Feat — But It’s About to Get a Whole Lot Easier Thanks to This Transformative Tool.

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In a post-Zoom world, the question, “Are the right people in the room?” persists, even if only metaphorically. However, having all the relevant cross-functional team members present remotely may not eliminate the danger of silos as effectively as everyone being physically present. Yet, there is a solution beyond the old debate about returning to the office. The tools of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to create fully immersive environments that give business leaders the best of both worlds.

In my experience helping mid-level and senior managers in the tech industry become better leaders of their teams, I have found that applying agile methodology is the best way to align teams, but it has proven challenging in remote environments. “Agile” is a project-management methodology that grew out of the software development industry in the early 2000s as a means of delivering work incrementally and collaboratively to allow for frequent course corrections. Its lessons are especially applicable to industries where there is a need for adaptability and responsiveness to change, such as e-commerce and marketing.

However, remote team members with different expertise tend to communicate blindly without fully understanding each other’s capabilities. This is where the metaverse comes into the picture. Those issues could be solved in a digital universe where employee avatars collaborate in a simulated office and interact directly with products and services in this virtual space. By adopting core best practices developed for the agile methodology now, such as more frequent feedback and cross-functional collaboration, business leaders are setting the stage to take advantage of this evolution.

Related: Exploring How Virtual Reality is Changing Startups

Unlock efficiency and collaboration

The metaverse is not the stuff of science fiction. Advocates of the next internet say it is poised to shift our working lives in the same way that social media and mobile devices did in the web’s first iteration. With 61% of managers citing communication as the biggest challenge of remote work, the metaverse promises to re-introduce some of the elements of in-person collaboration.

In a video environment, extra effort is required to engage directly and transparently about the expectations and capabilities of each person. However, the metaverse could enhance the ability of everyone to continuously move toward a shared goal. Last year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Lower Saxony, Germany, piloted workshops in a virtual environment designed and constructed by PwC. In the resulting study, participants wearing VR headsets found the metaverse process far more agile and efficient than videoconferencing, and their sense of closeness with colleagues rose by 58%.

Customized virtual offices may have a unique role in meeting the agile ideal, where every person on the team, including the product manager, has an equal opinion. But you don’t have to wait for this tech to go mainstream to experience the benefits of agile. The key is to give teams clear visibility into project roadmaps and identify where and why teams are not escalating issues promptly.

Drive value from being fully present

The daily “stand-up” is the most important aspect of the popular agile scrum framework. Teams get 15 minutes of daily face time, and it must be quick and easy: Here’s what a person did yesterday, this is what they’re doing today, and these are their “blockers” (obstacles). The team operates as equals, while the single point of contact — the scrum master — can assist in making priority decisions.

But when teams lose face-to-face time in digital collaborative spaces, they lose the stand-up. Before, if someone stated a blocker, the entire team would be present to discuss a way around it. This system was designed to allow agile teams to solve problems on the spot. The challenge for remote teams is retaining the same speed of agile in an environment where people often aren’t as engaged.

When the metaverse comes around, “standing up” will again become possible through avatars and a virtual scrum board. Until then, managers need to encourage open communication and ensure the right individuals are empowered to make decisions. I also suggest demonstrating to people, not just telling them, that mistakes are learning opportunities in a blameless culture.

Break down silos virtually

If a virtual workspace is well-designed with optimized visibility, teams may find themselves naturally drawn towards breaking down silos through open, transparent communication. That means evaluating whether the team can keep track of what the problems really are as the market shifts, as well as looking at the team’s execution style.

Begin to experiment with this approach by ensuring that people are not left to tackle problems alone. That is when they tend not to escalate, and everything slows down. If you are not already using daily stand-ups, use these sprint sessions to allow the entire team to know the tasks, the problems, and how the problems might be blocking individuals from completing the tasks.

People need to feel confident owning their decisions because businesses don’t have the luxury of time anymore. As we head into our brave new future, having all components of a virtual workplace reflect change in real-time will bring everyone up to speed and leverage the values of simulated face-to-face interactions.

Related: The Metaverse Has Definitely Lost Steam — But Is It Dead?

Paving the way for confident decision-making

In an enterprise metaverse environment, asking if everyone is in the room can once again be asked more literally — enhanced by audio-spatial technology that means the person to your right really sounds like they are to your right. Comfort with conflict and confident decision-making may prove easier with everyone more present. To leaders considering experimenting with metaverse platforms, McKinsey suggests adopting a test-and-learn mindset. Start small by integrating select elements, such as virtual whiteboards or project rooms, into your existing workflows to not only see how your team responds — but to gauge the potential of this technology. Where digital collaboration tools pose challenges, an enterprise metaverse promises to help companies build highly engaged remote teams that are quick on their feet and able to swiftly work toward a profitable MVP.

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