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Peer Mentoring for New Distributed Team Members

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.

When first leading distributed agile teams, a key challenge that can sneak up on you is onboarding a new team member. You cannot show them around the office. You cannot take them to lunch with their new distributed team members. How can you possibly get the new person oriented to their new organization and their new team? My secret: Get the organization and team to help you—and start onboarding before they do.

First, it begins with an interview team that assesses the candidate’s abilities and introduces them to the unique distributed work environment. Second, an onboarding team is formed with a primary mentor to guide a newly hired team member to connect with appropriate subject matter experts inside and outside their new team. These steps allow the new team member to quickly become a productive member of the distributed agile organization.

Start in the interview
When you are in a fully distributed organization, it's important that you not only interview job candidates for their technical skills, but that you also check their ability to work in your distributed agile environment.

This means you need to do a little homework. Part of the homework is talking to different teams in your organization to see how they deal with time zones, agile ceremonies, team working agreements and collaboration tools (video, screen sharing, chat, etc.). You may find that …

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"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time--a tremendous whack."

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