How to Get the Most Out of Education Events for Distributed Teams

Mark Kilby is an agile mentor playing many roles on the software and product lifecycle stage. Currently, Mark serves as an agile coach with Sonatype, a completely distributed agile software development company, focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark has led agile transformations from startups to Fortune 50 companies.

Managers sometimes mistake teaching and training as the sole purpose for temporarily collocating a distributed team. Teaching can educate team members on policies, practices, process and company information. Training typically encompasses skill-based development.

While both training and teaching are a necessity, they should not be the sole purpose of bringing together a distributed team for an education-based event. That’s because teaching and training alone miss out on the benefits of mingling and socialization.

The importance of mingling and socializing for distributed teams
Distributed teams tend to be very results-focused in their day-to-day work. Team members may not completely overlap their working hours because of different time zones. If there are six hours of overlap between distributed team members, there probably are few issues. When you get to four or fewer hours of overlap, collaborative work sessions will “get to business” quickly and then break quickly once the goal of the collaboration is achieved. There is little time for mingling before and after these sessions as you might have in a collocated team.

Mingling outside of meetings can have several key objectives. It can provide an opportunity to reflect on the work and work environment. For example, one distributed agile team I work with will often carry on conversations after a stand…

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