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Clear Communication Techniques for Distributed Agile Teams

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Trigger writing terms can create unnecessary conflict for distributed Agile teams

Although the Agile manifesto states the best way to communicate is face-to-face, distributed team members often must resort to communicating in writing. Whether you are following up via email or trying to get a quick answer via Slack, writing skills are now an integral part of online team collaboration. Your messages need to be short, clear, and well-formatted. Moreover, the written word, as beautiful as it could be, can often be misinterpreted by the reader. If not crafted correctly, a sentence can be interpreted to have a different tone than the intended one and potentially offend the receiver. This can lead to unnecessary conflict within the Agile team. A recent study showed the top sentences that can be misunderstood as being passive aggressive. Below are the terms most hated by the readers in order of least preferred and paired with their more friendly counterpart.

Bad Better

“As per my last email” “To reinforce the point I shared earlier…”

“Just a friendly reminder” “I thought I would follow up to…”

“Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood” “I could have this wrong but…”

“According to my records” “I understand that”

“Any updates on this” “Let me know if anything has changed since

our last..."

“Going forward I prefer” “Would it be acceptable to…”

In “Write like an Amazonian“ Amazon trains employees to write effectively. The guidelines include no frills items such as:

1. Replace adjectives with data

2. Explain acronyms the first time

3. Be concise

Some examples:

Bad Better

“We found a lot of bugs” “We found 10 bugs”

“ROI” “Return On Investment (ROI)”

“Due to the fact” “Because”

As distributed agile seems to be more permanent, let us know if these tips help you to communicate more effectively. What would you can add to this list?



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