One principle behind Agile manifesto indicates that having face-to-face communication is the most efficient and effective method of conveying information. The benefits of having all members of a squad at the same location are obvious. In reality, there are many reasons that a team is distributed at different geographic location. At worst case, your team is at the opposite time zone. When you just start your work in the morning, half of the team is at their nighttime. Finding a good time for all team members to meet can become challenging. So how do we overcome the obstacle to build a high performing team?
Visit the remote team and spend a short period of time together if possible. This is very useful and proves to be effective. You have the chance to get to know the team members in person, understand their work environment, experience their work style and office culture. You have direct visibility to their skills, strength and weakness. You can directly share project goals, do knowledge transfer, identify best way for communication, and set up success criteria.
When having the whole team to do daily stand-up is not realistic, your solution is to designate a lead at the remote site to run the daily stand-up there. He is the point person who you communicate regularly to understand the team members’ work progress at the remote site. You still get everyone together for sprint planning and sprint exit meetings.
Trust is the foundation of remote work relationship. Your real-time interaction with remote members is limited. To foster trust between you and members, you want to be clear on the expectation to the members at the beginning of the project and sprint planning, set your focus on the result rather than hours, respond promptly to remote member’s messages, be transparent, and make sure the remote team has access to the same information as local team.
In computer, asynchronous communication is a transmission mechanism to connect to other devices without waiting for immediate response data. Nowadays, many companies adopt slack and other communication platforms for team collaboration. But if not used wisely, it can make people feel they are at a constant meeting around the clock. The key to use slack with remote team is to treat it as the asynchronous communication vehicle. Be sensitive to the time zone difference, you can leave the inquiry and discussion topic in the channel and let people respond in their work hour.
The principles and practices of Agile are essentially the same for co-located and distributed projects. Hopefully these tips will help you overcome the additional challenges, and build the team that will lead to project’s success.