Workshop: Making Geographically Distributed Agile Projects Work

Workshop Objective: This experiential workshop provides you with an understanding and options for how you might create a successful geographically distributed agile project. The topics we’ll address are how to plan and execute the work for a geographically distributed project.

Workshop Overview: If you have teams all over the world trying to create a product together, you know how difficult it is to create good products fast. You might get a good product, and it’s slow to develop. You might get something fast, but it’s not good. Agile, with its approach to frequent valuable-to-the-business deliverables, looks like a good bet. And, if you already have geographically distributed teams, why can’t you just say, “Let’s go agile”?

Your teams might find it difficult to create their agile culture while working in a distributed or dispersed project.  We will first run a simulation to see how distributed or dispersed agile works. We will work through the levels of planning, through several iterations, and we’ll even do a geographically distributed retrospective, time zone differences and all.

Then we will all come together to discuss what to do about those issues in your organization.

You will leave with many tips and ideas on how to use agile for your team. You will learn some common traps and how to avoid them.

Target Audience: Anyone on a distributed or dispersed team considering agile. Also, Senior managers, Project managers, program managers, functional managers, technical leads product owners, all technical staff on a project.

Workshop Duration: 2 days. For the one-day public workshop, I timebox the chunks and stop when we finish meetings and tools (#6).

Prerequisite: A preference for using agile for a distributed or dispersed team.

Workshop Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Elicit your problems now
  2. Simulation: A geographically distributed project and debrief.
  3. Charter your project
    1. Vision
    2. Release criteria
    3. Where is everyone?
    4. Activity and debrief
  4. Human issues of agile teams
    1. Build trust
    2. Congruence
    3. Characteristics of collaborative teams
    4. Activity and debrief
  5. Agile planning and how that works in a distributed project
    1. Product owners, product roadmap and the backlog
    2. Technical teams: where are they?
    3. Standups or handoffs?
    4. Creating and improving your team’s board
    5. Activity and debrief
  6. Meetings and tools
    1. Tools, meetings, communications over distance
    2. Pairing and swarming over distance
    3. Activity and debrief.
    4. NOTE: We stop here for the one-day version of the workshop.
  7. Program vs. project management
    1. Various ways to bring together multiple agile teams
    2. Backlogs for multiple teams
    3. How to see work in progress
    4. Interdependent milestones
    5. Activity and debrief
  8. What makes sense for you to do?
    1. Alternative lifecycles
    2. How to move to agile, step by step, depending on what the simulation shows you
    3. Product owners and their issues
    4. People issues, including building trust across time and space
  9. Solving your problems
  10. Summary and wrap-up

You may be wondering about my experience with geographically distributed teams. I have managed geographically distributed teams since 1986. I wish I could tell you all my projects were fabulous successes. Some were. Some were spectacular failures. I have been coaching clients with their geographically distributed projects since 1995, and the successes all had certain common characteristics. That’s why this is a simulation-based workshop. You will have to discover those characteristics yourself for your organization.

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