mardi 1 février 2011

CHAPTER 2: Challenges faced by distributed teams

My notes out of the book “A Practical Guide to Distributed Scrum


Generally speaking, communication is a lot about non verbal channel. Indeed, verbal channel is only 35% of communication. As a consequence distributed teams communicate with a real handicap.

Meeting at least once help to know each other’s personalities, mannerisms, communication style and culture.

Time zone and working hours

Every meeting is a challenge

Cultural differences

In some countries, it is inappropriate to say “I don’t understand” the speaker. This can result to a big waste of time and energy.

Humor can differ from country to country. Handle it with care.

Words can have different meaning.

Management style can also be different.

Language differences

A scrum team needs to communicate a lot so the language difference makes it harder. Keeping language simple will help those who are not speaking mother language.

Give everyone a chance to speak.

Use chat tools to share links

Confirm understanding

Address communication tools issue such bad phone or poor network connection.

Software Engineering practices

“Good software engineering practices are important for both collocated and distributed teams BUT for distributed teams poor engineering practices are much more obvious and are a greater problem”

- TDD helps delivering high quality tested code. It helps the team to evolve design over the time.

- Continuous integration helps teams to integrate their work frequently

- CI running automated tests detect regression problem quicker

Generally speaking, any tool helping to discover problems soon is a good tool because the later issues are discovered, the more expensive they are.

Delivering value at every 2-3 weeks sprint is a challenge and good engineering practices will considerably help distributed teams.

Schedule difference

Take into account holidays of the different zones to help commitment.

Team dynamics

“Making the daily scrum a priority is one example of how to keep the whole team engaged”

Telephone dynamics

Providing access to call -> toll free numbers (very important for home workers)

The Scrum Master takes the responsibility everyone hears and participates

Identify the speaker (Luc’s speaking : “bla bla bla”)

Handling visual cues encourage participation and limit side conversation

Check for agreement and disagreement.

Impact of Communication problems

Obvious problems: Team members not doing the right task, doing the task correctly or doing the task at the expected time.

More subtle problems: tasks outside team’s mission can pull away members to work on lower priority matters. This is more difficult to see on distributed teams.

Scrum helps mitigate this problem through the daily Scrum.

“KEY POINT: The more closely a distributed team can adopt Scrum as designed by its creators, the more likely a team will experience success. The design of Scrum promotes good communication. At the same time, with some minor adaptations for distributed teams, Scrum can help teams deliver the right product, at the right time, with the right quality”.

Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing model:'s_stages_of_group_development

- Distributed teams easily block at the storming stage. When the team changes, it can start over at forming stage. The performing stage is fragile and because of the limited personal contact, remote teams take longer to get through this stage.

How does Scrum help?

It does not help fixing problems! It just puts a spotlight on them so that the teams can identify and address them. All scrum artifacts are designed to help the team seeing progress and issues. Sprints, daily scrums, retrospectives, sprint planning are all important and mastering them can lead the team to performance. Scrum is like glasses, it makes more visible dysfunctions.


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