January 15, 2016

Working with Remote Team Members

Written by Jannette Brace

I’ve been working with large organizations where team members are in multiple locations quite a bit lately. This environment can be challenging, especially in ensuring everyone is engaged and not multitasking during Sprint Events. While there are a number of things I’ve covered in my blog “The Reality of Distributed Teams”, here are 4 specific things you can do to help build better agility with your remote teams.

  1. Encourage team members in similar locations to meet in a room, and not just “dial-in” from their desk.
  • Builds team continuity
  • Reduces the urge to multi-task
  • Follows the Agile Principle “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
  1. Follow Sprint Event Agendas
  • Ensures the team keeps on task and is not sidetracked
  • Ensures we have a clear outcome to strive to for each event
  • Keep to a time-box, and don’t create extra meetings to make up for not reaching the desired outcome at the end of a prescribed Sprint Event
  1. Use a tool like planningpoker.com to size stories
  • Simultaneous Pointing – reduce influence by more senior members
  • Encourages discussion to get complete understanding of stories
  • Supports “team sizing” instead of “individual” sizing
  1. Allow for silence
  • Creates an opportunity for the team to talk
  • Product Owner and Scrum Master should not be doing all the talking, especially during planning. In Sprint Planning or Story Grooming/Refinement once the PO has introduced a new story, turn the meeting over to the team for questions and discussion amongst themselves. If there is awkward silence for a bit, it’s OK. Before moving on, be sure and ask if the team needs more time to discuss.

Whether your team has been together a long time or is just starting out, creating an environment for success by actively addressing remote issues is sure to add value to your team. Give these suggestions a try and let me know your successes!

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