You have a geographically distributed agile team. You have team members more than six hours apart. (If you're not sure how far apart people are, take a look at Managing Timezones in Geographically Distributed Teams). How do you have standups that mean something, when people have completed work, can commit to work, and are not asleep?
Let's examine some possibilities.
1. Share the pain. One possibility is that you vary the standup time of day. Some teams do this for each iteration. One iteration is for the westerly people, one iteration is for the easterly people. That way everyone is equally exhausted all the time. (Did you hear my cynicism?) This is a possibility, and some teams make it work.
2. One representative pulls double shifts. One person from the remote team represents the remote people to the headquarters team. Often, one person from the easterly team represents the entire team to the westerly or headquarters team. Only the representative is exhausted from having to be awake for two shifts.
3. The “remote” people permanently time-shift. This is a good alternative to promote teamwork. It's not so good for people's personal lives. It's difficult to manage all the necessities of life (childcare, the grocery store, the post office) when you are on the second or third shift.
Here's another alternative. Forget the standups.
Instead of doing standups, try handoffs. I know, this smacks of waterfall, but hang in there. Slice your stories really small. Now, make sure that the people in one location can complete their work. If there is any overlapping time where the people can talk to each other, they can talk in real-time. If not, they can send email describing what they have completed, and what the handoff is. Email is a poor second choice, because the bandwidth is so low. But, if the other people are more than seven hours away, maybe email is what you need.
This approach is called “follow-the-sun.” It only works if you complete work. The work stops if anyone has questions. The cost to ask a question still is a problem for agile teams, just as it is for any team. In Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management, I discussed the cost to ask a question, and what happens if you delay asking questions.
If you have a geographically distributed agile team, as many of you do, consider making your stories very small, so that you can finish them in a day. Have the people closest together swarm around the story. That will keep your work in progress small, also. Then, hand the story off to the people who are not near you, in lieu of a standup, if your team is many hours distant from each other.
Handoffs are not a dirty word. They may reflect your team reality. Maybe you can make them work for you, instead of everyone being exhausted from standups?
If you liked this article about geographically distributed agile teams, you might want to know about my workshops in Israel. I will be teaching several workshops, including one about geographically distributed agile teams. See A Week with Johanna.
Some people say, “Don't do agile with distributed teams.” I'm not fond of distributed teams, but many of you have them. I can help you with pragmatic and practical approaches to your challenges. Please do join me.
July 10, Panelist at Agile New England, Agile: Massive Success or Empty Buzzword? <— Note the correct date!!
July 28-Aug 1, Agile 2014 Orlando
- Agile Projects, Program, and Portfolio Management: No Air Quotes Needed
- Diving for Hidden Treasures: Finding the Real Value in Your Project Portfolio
Sept. 2, Webinar Agile Program Management: Networks, Not Hierarchies
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© 2014 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, agile project management, geographically distributed teams, project management