Distributed? Yes. Alone? No.
As I've sent these Pragmatic Managers and received these responses from many of you, I keep hearing one theme: “I thought I was the only one dealing with this issue.”
You are not alone.
I've received many emails, directly and via LinkedIn about your issues with your teams. So, in this Pragmatic Manager, I will repeat some of the questions you have asked and answer them.
Question: “How do we maintain the high level of communication that is the very spirit of agile?”
Answer: Build in infrastructure and set an example. If you are too many time zones away, you are not going to have high levels of communication. You are going to have handoffs. Where you do have the possibility of real-time communication, you need Instant Messaging among team members, inexpensive and high-availability phone, and real-time High Definition video available that works. No scrimping on infrastructure.
And, if you are the one person who knows that agile requires constant communication, set the example. Initiate conversations, ask questions, be visible (even at a distance) and help people see they can swarm around a feature. This is one of the reasons I like kanban so much for a distributed team–it shows them visually that they must limit their work-in-progress.
Question: “How do I get other developers involved in the discussion?”
Answer: Several of you asked this question and when I probed, you were managers and Scrum Masters. This is a Bad Idea.
As a manager, you have title-based authority, you hold the purse strings, you probably conduct performance reviews, and you want people to think of you as an equal member of the team.
They won't. The other developers will defer to you. Well, unless they are me. Thank goodness they are not me. Most people have more self-preservation in the organization than I do. You are asking people to behave as if you are peers, but you are not a peer. I've written about this before.
For those of you are not managers, here are some facilitation guidelines:
- Let people know in advance what you want to talk about. That way they have time to think in advance.
- During the conversation, let them think. Not all conversation happens out loud. Some people think in their heads. Those people are called introverts. Software development is full of them.
- Remember the Rule of Three: If you don't have three options for a solution to a problem, you don't understand it well enough yet. You might need to explore it more. Maybe it's time to spike instead of talk.
By the way, this works for testers and writers and UI designers, not just developers.
Do you have more questions and want more answers? You still have two weeks to sign up and participate in our workshop, April 17-18. Join us.
Join me at other public workshops
I am delivering a number of public workshops this spring. Please do sign up and join me. Registration is limited–first come, first serve.
May 28-29 Transitioning to Agile, Stockholm, Sweden. If you want to experience an agile project, learn how to transition and maintain your agility, please join me in this workshop.
I hope to see you at one of these workshops.