Hiring For an Agile Team: Feature Teams All Over the World

On Managing Product Development, I say that feature teams all over the world are fine. But, how do you hire these teams ?

One way is to go to that country, hire the first person yourself, and have that person hire the rest.

Another way is to hire someone here, wherever here is, and have that person relocate to the other country and have that person hire the rest of the team.

Another way is if you have a friend or a colleague in another country—someone you have worked with before, and you hire that person. That person works out. Now, that person hires the rest of the team.

Because you know the person you start the team with, you can hire for cultural fit. That person can maintain cultural fit. But which culture? I’ll discuss more about culture later. Culture is a big question.

The real question is this: Do you have a dispersed team or feature teams?

What Does Your Team Look Like?

Is your team distributed or dispersed? It matters. For agile, I like distributed feature teams, where the team is all together in one place. You can have feature teams anywhere, as long as the team is together.

Once the people are dispersed, it’s more difficult to find time to hire together, never mind do anything else together. I’m only focusing on hiring in this post.

If you have read Hiring Geeks That Fit, you know I’m a fan of hiring as a team. The team has to work with this person. The team should hire the person. This is why it matters if the team is distributed or dispersed.

Hire as a Team

Let’s assume you have a feature team all in one place. You would create an interview matrix, you’d ask behavior-description questions, you would do everything, just as I said in Look for the Growth Mindset.

Of course, you would create auditions. Assuming you are together, you would have an audition in place. But if you are remote? How do you have a remote audition?

Create a Remote Audition

What will your candidate do remotely? Pair? Coach? Participate in a standup meeting? Plan for an iteration? If the candidate is a Product Owner, will the candidate create a roadmap or stories? Alone or with people? Groom the backlog?

This is why you must do a job analysis first. If you don’t know what the candidate will do, and with whom, you can’t create an audition.

Now, you’re ready to test the audition with people on your team. If they can do the audition, your candidate might be able to, also.

Hire for Cultural Fit

I say to hire for cultural fit. But when you have feature teams all over the world, you have at least two cultures to fit. You have the local team, wherever that is, and you have the corporate culture.

I’ve taught workshops at Intel, Cisco, and Sybase, to name some large international companies, worldwide. I can tell that I am at those companies, no matter where I am in the world. It’s not the colors inside the building. It’s not the logo on the outside of the buildings. It’s the feel of the organization inside the building. Because culture is what we can discuss, what is rewarded, and how we treat each other. When I’m in the building, Intel feels like Intel. It doesn’t feel like Cisco or Sybase. It doesn’t. (And the same for the other organizations.)

These companies maintain their corporate culture across the distance.

At the same time, each project or program will have its individual stamp on the project or program. There is a difference even between Intel-Jerusalem and Intel-Haifa. Yes, they are in the same country! But that’s because they are part of different projects and programs. They perform different work. It’s the same with other large organizations. I’m using Intel as an example, only because I’ve taught at more locations there than any other company. If I’d taught at more Cisco or Sybase locations, I would use them, but I haven’t.

When I manage a project or program, it has a “JR” feel to it. Because I am a human, I put my personal stamp on the projects and programs I manage. Other project/program managers impart their own “feels” to their projects and programs. That’s the culture. This is not good or bad, it just is.

The more you know about your culture, the better you can be about hiring for it.

The more restricted the person’s influence level, the more they need to fit the culture of the team. The more expanded the person’s influence level, the more they need to fit the culture of the organization and the team.

Yes, this is an issue even when you’re not hiring teams all over the world. It’s more pronounced when you are.

Who Is Your Hiring Agent?

At the beginning of this, I said you had several options. Let’s reexamine them now:

  1. You are your agent. You go to the country, hire the first person yourself, and have that person hire the rest. Maybe you even visit often, so you make sure the culture remains intact.
  2. Hire someone at headquarters. Have that person relocate to the other country and have that person hire the rest of the team. Be careful what you call the feature teams in the other countries. Do not call the headquarters team “headquarters.” Language matters when you name the remote teams. Name all teams by the feature names, if possible.
  3. Have a trusted colleague in another country hire the team(s) you need.

No matter what you do, eventually you need to trust the people in the other country. You need to decide when it’s the right time. It depends on how long you’ve worked with the other person.

It’s Not Easy

Hiring for a remote agile team is difficult. Hiring for a collocated agile team is much easier.

Here are all the posts for easy reference:

Part 1: Hiring For an Agile Team: Who Do You Need?

Part 2: Hiring For an Agile Team: Making Tradeoffs

Part 3: Hiring for an Agile Team: Look for the Growth Mindset

Part 4: Hiring for an Agile Team: Create the Agile Interview

and this post, Part 5: Hiring For an Agile Team: Feature Teams All Over the World.

Since my travel and life interrupted me when I was writing this series, I’ll return to the other posts and update the links so you have easy access to the series.

About Johanna Rothman

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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