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The Usual Suspects: Overcoming the Most Common Issues Affecting Distributed Agile Teams

As part of the LeanAgile US conference last week, my colleagues and fellow distributed agile nerds AgileBill, David and Mark hosted a bonus online event in Sococo. This was for event attendees who wanted to learn more about our favorite topic, distributed agile. For us, talking to the distributed agile community is the most fulfilling and fun part of our jobs as coaches and community leaders. 

In this Q & A event, we had asked registrants to send in a description of their most vexing issues with distributed agile practices ahead of the session. Right away, we realized that the usual suspects that we’d been hearing about from our customers for a long time are still nagging away at all of us. The conclusion we drew was:

If you have problems in one or more of these areas, you’re in good company because pretty much every person on any multi location team has suffered as you have:

  • Timezone awkwardness
  • Poor multi-location collaboration
  • Lack of individual engagement
  • Cultural differences between teams

While it might be comforting to know that you’re not alone and these are totally normal problems to have, it’s important not to use that as an excuse to do nothing about it. As they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step. 

Our attendees were super stars!

The next thing we learned from our panelists was, encouragingly, that they had all taken the time to think very clearly about their problems and came up with not one, but several ways of trying to solve them. This made us as coaches want to do a little happy dance (we spared everyone that, you’re welcome) because that is what true agilists will do - experiment and find the right fit. These are the folks who will be part of the future of agile. 

These problems endemic to the distributed agile community will probably be around for a long time, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions that can effortlessly eliminate any of them. The way to work within and around them is to conduct informed experiments until you figure out what works best for your particular situation. 

Become part of the distributed agile community

The distributed agile community is full of people who want to share their successes, techniques, theories and ideas in these areas as a way of implementing continuous improvement for all agile practitioners. The best way to tap into that is to get involved with the distributed agile community, because it’s growing rapidly and our knowledge is expanding at the same rate. With tools like Sococo and groups like Virtual Team Talk, little pods of our community are starting to create internet outposts. 

Let us know if you want to get involved - at Sococo, we’re developing a Distributed Agile Mastery program where experts in all its disciplines are working with us to get the word out. We’ll have different kinds of events including lean coffees, presentations with the experts, and panel Q & As. As our network expands, we’ll be including all sorts of great content to help in your journey.

Want a few tips on how to be an awesome online team? Follow Sococo on Twitter for more tips and tricks on distributed team agility!