Distributed Agile Teams - A reminder to make it great

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Sadie Honey

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October 31, 2013

Distributed Agile Teams - A reminder to make it great

During the talks I have attended at Agile Denver, Mile High Agile, and Agile 2013 I’ve noticed that distributed teams tend to be dismissed.  In one session description at Agile 2013, distributed teams is called out as one of the “practices that don’t help” .  In another, distributed development is described as a “presumed threat” to Agile adoption. Other times I’ve heard offhand remarks that indicate the speaker thinks that there are enough negatives associated with distributed Agile teams that they are not worth the effort.

At CivicActions, we’ve been a fully distributed company since our founding in 2004.  There are a lot of reasons why we do this, and we’ve gotten really good at finding the tools and practices that help our teams excel together.

This week however, I had a taste of why people think that distributed teams suck.  We had two days of workshops where the bulk of the participants were gathered in one place while I and one other colleague joined in remotely.  

Ugh!  We experienced it all:

  • Low resolution video of the white board that the in-person people were using 
  • Video that kept cutting out 
  • Audio volume that faded in and out 
  • My inability to get up and write on the board that others were using! 

It was do-able for 2 days but boy did it get tiresome quickly.

It re-ignited my commitment though, to doing the distributed thing really well!  Maybe we all should get a taste of how bad it can be to keep us focused on making it great.

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Excellent points. I think this also connects to our increase of on site mutli-day meetings at the beginning of projects. Distributed group can be great but there is much to be gained with even one in person session.