How to Increase Your Distributed Team's Flow

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.

In the absence of ongoing collaboration, even the most talented distributed software team can slow down. Agile principles and practices show how a regular rhythm can maximize flow.

In forming distributed software development teams, some managers will gather the most skilled professionals across the globe to form the teams, work with them to set up processes to follow, then ensure that work flows into the teams and that value flows out. Good managers also work to remove impediments. All well and good, but can these teams keep up a rhythm?

For instance, on many distributed software teams, team members and managers alike will seek to reduce collaboration time in preference to individual work time. However, without regular collaboration on your distributed software team, your team can slow down even if you have the best developers and testers on the planet. Agile principles and practices show how a regular rhythm can help. Let’s look at a couple of examples…

An example of how one broadly distributed team struggled
One out-of-rhythm distributed team consisted of a product manager on the U.S. west coast and developers on the U.S. east coast. The team decided to improve the quality of its software by adding a tester in India.

Since members all worked for the same organization, the team assumed the tester was familiar with the product line. This was not …

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"To generalize is to be an idiot."

- William Blake

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