Agile methods were principally designed for use in small team projects, having face-to-face communication and interaction among team members. However, in today’s business environment organizations have teams across several physical locations, working in different cities, countries or continents. When scaling agile methods to other geographically distributed locations, coordination difficulties are often met. The challenges to coordination is due to distances that impact communication, coordination, and control. However, here are 3 tips on how to identify these distances and how to not only overcome them, but use them to your advantage:
1. Time distance
So it is 9 am in your office in New York, but your team members are heading home from work from the office in New Delhi or Dhaka? This is a typical frustration that can lead to communication and coordination challenge such as delay in feedback and response. However, if done right, time differences can be used to your advantage. If your team can accomplish daily handoffs between different locations and center the attention around the clock on the most important, prioritized tasks, it gives the potential of taking the advantage of widely distributed time zones. Possibly, your team or organization can stretch their productive hours of the day from the normal 8- to 10- hour average to near the limit of 24.
2. Geographical distance
Are you no longer sitting beside your co-workers, having your daily informal chats? With the prevalent use of technology tools such as email, Skype, Slack, Trello and Jira, virtual communication is really not that hard anymore. However, despite these communication resources there might still be the feeling of working in completely different teams. Research has suggested that good distributed virtual relationships needs to occur not only at higher levels within the organization, but also between the software developers. Therefore, make sure your team start off with a short morning meeting (could be evening meetings somewhere else in the world) to get to know each other and make sure your organization has the tools in place for informal communication for instant availability of team members.
3. Cultural distance
Feel like your developers come from a different planet? Culture can be a tricky thing and can sometimes lead to misunderstanding and confusion for teams. However, in order to create common understanding and shared-learning within and between project teams, it is important to make sure you employ open minded people who are excited to understand and learn from other cultures then their own. Also, make sure to promote an appreciation for cultural differences and find out how to best accommodate the cultural differences for both your team members locally and globally.