While I’ve been coaching agile teams since 2003, more and more of my clients have some part of their product develop distributed. Ideally, we would want to co-locate those working on the same product, but this is not always feasible … at least in the short term. So I needed to find ways to make distributed collaboration and product development work in these situations. Below are some of my own discoveries as well as other resources I would highly recommend. I’ll be updating this monthly.
My blog posts on distributed teams and orgs:
- The Buddy System
- Why You Want a Backchannel in Your Distributed Meetings
- For Distributed Agile Teams, Tools Come Last
- What’s the Secret Joy of Working Remote?
- Is there a better way to talk about distributed teams?
I’ve also written about Sonatype and it’s distributed agile approach and other articles:
- How to Demonstrate Trustworthiness: A Key Success Factor for Distributed Agile Teams (April 2016 ProjectManagement.com)
- Invitation: The Secret Tool for Distributed Agile Leaders (August 2016 on ProjectManagement.com)
- Building the Self-Organized Team Anywhere (November 2016 on ProjectManagement.com)
- Peer Mentoring for New Distributed Team Members (March 2017 on Project Management.com)
Other great resources on virtual teams:
- Collaboration Superpowers – The book, the blog, and the podcast have a wealth of great insights as Lisette interviews many different successful virtual teams. I love the 8-9 minute summaries that occasionally pop up on the podcast.
- Virtual Not Distant – Pilar often teams up with Lisette but she also interviews a broad category of folks from successful virtual organizations that go far beyond software.
- Virtually Agile – Jesse Fewell is gathering a tremendous collection of resources to help distributed teams, especially for offshoring.
- Judy Rees – Judy is not only a master of helping people discover the metaphors they live by, she often does this work with virtual teams. Want to have your virtual teams better understand each other? Talk to Judy!
- Online Co-Working: Is it just too much? – a podcast on how you might co-work online
- Is open space possible online? Yes, open space can do well in an online setting. My co-creator / facilitator for the Agile2016 Audacious Salon, Michael Herman, designed a very unique Virtual Open Space On Open Space (VOSonOS) in July 2015. You can read the proceeding here.
- Distributed Retrospectives – most people find these very challenging. However, there are many great ideas in this free e-book. Also some of the newer tools, like Retrium, help make simple distributed team retrospectives easier.
If any of your team is distributed, I highly recommend having everyone work through some sort of online tool, even if it’s a google doc. As soon as a co-located portion of the team starts working with sticky notes or a whiteboard, the remote members are at a disadvantage. I’ve developed and used this Google template for many years for running distributed retrospectives before some of these newer tools (like Retrium) started coming out in the last couple of years.
Also, how you run a distributed retrospective depends on how the team is distributed (satellite, clusters or nebula). If I have a satellite team with a few remote members, I will use the buddy system. If I have clusters, I use co-facilitators / co-pilots at each location. And in all cases, I will use a separate chat tool for a backchannel.
Great courses for distributed teams:
- Events by Collaboration Superpowers – online, in-person and hybrid courses put on by Collaboration Superpowers facilitators worldwide. Also includes public speaking events are listed.
- Virtual Not Distant – Pilar Orti offers a wide range of courses to help you and your teams transition to the world of online work. I encourage you to check back often as she will experiment with new course 2-3 times per year.
- Successful Distributed Teams by Modus Institute – the creators of personal kanban now show you how to apply those same concepts to your distributed teams. A great choice for project-based teams.
I’ve personally taken these courses and highly recommend them.
Conferences and presentations
Virtual Team Talk – a community of practitioners
If you have read this far down this page, you either have a difficult problem you are trying to solve with a distributed team or organization or you are deeply passionate about working remotely. Then I have a treat for you! There is a very unique online community called Virtual Team Talk that shares ideas, conducts experiments and even will hold experiential online conferences to push the boundaries of what is possible for remote work. We all work remotely and span the globe. Some are consultants, some are agilists, some are freelances, and some are entrepreneurs. We are even gathering a few psychologists and sociologists who are study online work. If you would like to join in the conversations and experiments, then I invite you to read “Our Story” and then click the link that says “Click Here To Join Us”.
You might be asking, what kind of experiments? Will it hurt? Not at all. Some things you will find on VTT:
- virtual lean coffees – spend an hour with experts and other remote workers and leaders in a casual Q&A. Also, learn how you can self-organize these sessions.
- virtual co-working – Co-working is all the rage these days, but will it work online? We think it works brilliantly given the right environment and people. If you work from a home office, miss the “connection” with others, but don’t like to haul your monitors and other gear to get your work done, then come try out virtual co-working
- surveys – some of our researchers who are part of community will occasionally conduct surveys and you get to see and use the results for your next presentation to convince others to work virtually.
- Internal Affairs – these are usually “day long” internal conferences. The length of the day may vary as we do have an international audience, but if you want to experiment with new tools and techniques, these are events not to miss.
- special events – because of the connections we have with other communities, we’ll sometimes request help with these events. It usually involves showing up at a certain time for 1-2 hours and be willing to try something new. They are usually recorded and you can point to these recordings from your blog or social media. Helps build your person brand as well.
“Why make this so difficult to find?” … you might be thinking. We are not interesting in growing a huge community. Instead, we would prefer to gather people who are willing to re-think the world of work and help us explore some new possibilities. Again, if you have read this far, you are probably one of those people. So please join us!