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Topics: Agile, Leadership, Scrum
Best practices for a dispersed agile team?



Share your experience! What are your best practices for a dispersed (not co-located) agile team... from different companies?
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You'll likely have to revise your communications plan for some time to create something that works for the distributed team, and most importantly you'll need to make sure team members are communicating sufficiently with one another.
Since you're dealing with different companies you'll need a common communications framework in which to function - for example, a document repository everyone can access. Perhaps you could simply give everyone access to a SharePoint site within a single company, for example.
Also, you’ll need to make sure the different participants aren’t working at cross purposes. Sometimes companies in joint ventures give their respective employees secret instructions that aren’t in the project’s best interest, such as “Try to learn as much proprietary technology as you can from the other companies while revealing as little of our own as possible.”
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1 reply by Peggy D. Johnson
Jan 18, 2018 4:27 PM
Peggy D. Johnson
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Thank you very much, Eric. I appreciate your practical advice on communications and watching for hidden agendas.



Using the appropriate technology (audio-visual) to bring the team as best virtually co-located as possible, performing some simple activities that make the remote member feel a part of the team (ie. coffee mug or photo of them at the table are some of the approaches I have taken in the past), feedback to ensure remote workers don't feel isolated or that in some way they are not appreciated, adequate technology to ensure a smooth communication experience, some virtual meetups that are more social than work-centric to bond the team. By the way this can be for both Agile and Waterfall projects, the principle is the same.
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1 reply by Peggy D. Johnson
Jan 18, 2018 4:31 PM
Peggy D. Johnson
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Thank you, Sante. Bringing in a photo or coffee mug is such a practical way to represent the remote team members. Also, your emphasis on having some purely team-bonding meetings is very helpful. I'm afraid we've been too "business-oriented" and have skipped this. This will help get around the tribes created by different companies.



Peggy -

1. Have you project kickoff in person - at least one face-to-face meeting will definitely help to build relationships.

2. Leverage collaboration tools but work with the team to develop the ground rules for their appropriate usage and provide basic training on their usage to all team members.

3. Assuming you have time-zone differences to deal with, don't plan key agile ceremonies always at a time which inconveniences the same group.

If this is in fact an agile scaling scenario where you have a team of more than a dozen folks, I'd look at splitting it into separate agile teams working in a coordinated manner assuming the geographic separation still is allowing for "whole" teams at each location.

Kiron
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1 reply by Peggy D. Johnson
Jan 18, 2018 4:35 PM
Peggy D. Johnson
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Four very important tips, Kiron. Thank you very much for sharing them. I'll be able to start implementing them right away.



Jan 18, 2018 3:05 PM
Replying to Eric Simms
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You'll likely have to revise your communications plan for some time to create something that works for the distributed team, and most importantly you'll need to make sure team members are communicating sufficiently with one another.
Since you're dealing with different companies you'll need a common communications framework in which to function - for example, a document repository everyone can access. Perhaps you could simply give everyone access to a SharePoint site within a single company, for example.
Also, you’ll need to make sure the different participants aren’t working at cross purposes. Sometimes companies in joint ventures give their respective employees secret instructions that aren’t in the project’s best interest, such as “Try to learn as much proprietary technology as you can from the other companies while revealing as little of our own as possible.”
Thank you very much, Eric. I appreciate your practical advice on communications and watching for hidden agendas.



Jan 18, 2018 3:09 PM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Using the appropriate technology (audio-visual) to bring the team as best virtually co-located as possible, performing some simple activities that make the remote member feel a part of the team (ie. coffee mug or photo of them at the table are some of the approaches I have taken in the past), feedback to ensure remote workers don't feel isolated or that in some way they are not appreciated, adequate technology to ensure a smooth communication experience, some virtual meetups that are more social than work-centric to bond the team. By the way this can be for both Agile and Waterfall projects, the principle is the same.
Thank you, Sante. Bringing in a photo or coffee mug is such a practical way to represent the remote team members. Also, your emphasis on having some purely team-bonding meetings is very helpful. I'm afraid we've been too "business-oriented" and have skipped this. This will help get around the tribes created by different companies.



Jan 18, 2018 4:01 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
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Peggy -

1. Have you project kickoff in person - at least one face-to-face meeting will definitely help to build relationships.

2. Leverage collaboration tools but work with the team to develop the ground rules for their appropriate usage and provide basic training on their usage to all team members.

3. Assuming you have time-zone differences to deal with, don't plan key agile ceremonies always at a time which inconveniences the same group.

If this is in fact an agile scaling scenario where you have a team of more than a dozen folks, I'd look at splitting it into separate agile teams working in a coordinated manner assuming the geographic separation still is allowing for "whole" teams at each location.

Kiron
Four very important tips, Kiron. Thank you very much for sharing them. I'll be able to start implementing them right away.



Applies the same than to any other type of the teams working into different environments. The problem is people usually mixing things like team, method, environment, process, etc. But the way, sorry because english is not my native language, but I firmly believe that the first step to failure is to name things as Agile something.

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