How to Integrate Time Zones for Successful Collaboration

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.

Many managers of distributed agile software teams struggle with time zones. Team members may also struggle with maintaining a traditional eight-hour workday when separated by multiple time zones. Perhaps it’s not the time zones that are the challenge; the real challenge lies in re-thinking the workday of the team.

First, we should consider why we have some of our distributed team members in the first place. Some of the team members could have deep subject matter expertise that cannot be easily taught or found in others near you. Perhaps your company went through a reorganization or acquisition, and now you have people available for knowledge work projects that have some good expertise in areas needed. However, these same available team members might be able to contribute in a number of ways to the project. This allows some flexibility in how the team organizes the work.

Regardless, you find yourself in a situation where certain tasks can be done by one or more team members on the team—and the timing of these tasks can impact whether your project is successful or not. Also, as an agile software team, some of these tasks may benefit from collaboration. Yet multiple time zones can make this challenging. What is a manager to do?

Distributed Teams Do Not Have Eight-Hour Days Together
First, let go of the notion that distributed teams work a continuous eight …

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