Project Management

Success Factors for Facilitating a Meeting Among Distributed Leaders

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 and

Successful distributed meetings require considerable upfront planning and vigilant real-time meeting management.

In this article, I’ll share key success factors from a meeting that I recently co-facilitated. This meeting was comprised of agile leaders of a distributed software organization dispersed across the United States and Canada. During the meeting, some leaders collocated to a hotel meeting room, while others participated from their work locations. The organization grew rapidly and the leaders wanted to discuss the shifting demands on their roles and decide on what might need to change.

Over the course of 2.5 days, participants raised and discussed key issues, formed breakout teams to examine possible solutions and new approaches, and came back together with clear direction and new energy for the year ahead. What were the success factors that made this focused collaboration possible for this distributed group of leaders?

1. Give priority to the meeting theme rather than a detailed agenda. Agile leadership teams with a lean startup mindset can feel constrained by detailed agendas for offsite meetings. Each leader holds a unique perspective on the organizational challenges and wants to share their observations as soon as possible with their peers.

However, these leadership gatherings need to have a focusing element. Executive leadership needs to set a …

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