The Value of Face-to-Face Meetups to Catalyze a Distributed Organization

Mark Kilby is an agile coach who, for over two decades, has cultivated more distributed, dispersed and virtual teams than co-located teams. Currently, Mark serves as an agile coach with Sonatype, a distributed agile software development company focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark led Agile transformations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Mark's book, From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams, is co-authored with Johanna Rothman and will be published in August 2018. A sample of the book is available now via http://markkilby.com and Leanpub.com.

One of the keys to successful agile teams is to emphasize handshakes over handoffs. In other words, as a leader in a distributed organization, you want to find ways for people to spontaneously connect with each other on a personal level, not just discuss work. This is why a regular face-to-face meeting is so important. In my current organization, we refer to these events as "gatherings" or "meetups," as it is as much about our work community coming together as it is about the important work we do.

Regular Meetups vs. Meetings
Many companies successful with distributed teams still find value in bringing people together at least once a year to share visions for the company, products and to plan new directions. These face-to-face meetups provide remote workers a needed opportunity to connect with each other, making social connections which are just as important as the business and intellectual connections. These meetups work best when they take place over multiple days.

The working days of these meetups should contain a mix of strategic and tactical topics. Strategic topics help everyone involved see the big picture and how their role contributes. Tactical topics can cover skill building, exploring design options or brainstorming new solutions. It helps everyone determine where they can contribute uniquely to the larger vision. With more than one day, …

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