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BEST PRACTICES TO HELP DISTRIBUTED AGILE TEAMS [#Agile #AgileTeams #DistributedAgileTeams]

1. RESPECT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
2. PRE-SPRINT PLANNING AND EARLY INTERDEPENDENCIES IDENTIFICATION
3. CONSISTENT TIME FOR DISTRIBUTED DAILY SCRUM MEETINGS
4. SCHEDULE SPRINT REVIEWS AND RETROSPECTIVES
5. MINIMIZE HANDOFFS
6. HIRE MOTIVATED PEOPLE
7. USE COLLABORATION TOOLS
8. KNOW YOUR PEOPLE

Global Agile teams must address some inherent collaboration challenges, such as differences in time zones, differences in cultures and barriers in languages.

For a distributed Agile team to succeed, each team member must make some extra effort.

Project managers should strive to:

• arm the team with the right tools for communication and collaboration
• understand strengths and weaknesses of the team members
• encourage transparency
• hold regular meetings
• set clear expectations for stakeholders and team members
• adhere to engineering best practices and standards
• focus on achievable milestones
• build awareness of different cultures

BEST PRACTICES THAT CAN HELP DISTRIBUTED AGILE TEAMS ADDRESS THESE SPECIFIC CHALLENGES:

1. RESPECT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Where team members might come from a mix of cultural backgrounds, it is imperative that everyone respect the differences of each other. Managers should coordinate cultural awareness trainings on a regular basis. Also, there are different holidays the team members celebrate, which might require extra coordination for team coverage.

2. PRE-SPRINT PLANNING AND EARLY INTERDEPENDENCIES IDENTIFICATION
Without clear expectations, teams run into many issues during the project lifecycle. Set expectations with stakeholders to measure the project success and establish clear expectations for team members to keep them focused.

Plan sprints and identify interdependencies as early as possible. Plan Product Backlogs well in advance – long before the Sprint start date. Another good practice is to schedule frequent Backlog Grooming sessions often, typically once a week.

In a Backlog Grooming session, the Product Owner reviews items on the Product Backlog with the team members to prioritize and select a few Sprints worth of user stories. This activity makes Sprint Planning sessions more efficient and effective.

3. CONSISTENT TIME FOR DISTRIBUTED DAILY SCRUM MEETINGS
Daily Scrum meetings help the team focus, facilitating collaboration among team members . Hold these meetings at a consistent time when the entire team is available.

A daily Scrum meeting typically lasts 15 to 20 minutes. This gathering is where the entire global team can discuss the progress of each team member, plan for the day and identify potential blockers.

4. SCHEDULE SPRINT REVIEWS AND RETROSPECTIVES
Schedule sprint reviews to assess a project against the goals the team set during Sprint Planning. Sprint Retrospectives provide distributed Agile teams a way to effectively exchange information and ideas, assess progress in the iteration, and create plans to improve the process of work. When the team meets its goals, celebrate milestones to boost morale.

Managers typically hold remote retrospective sessions via video conferencing.

5. MINIMIZE HANDOFFS
Differences in time zones increase wait times. If a team member in one country needs a team member in another country or another continent to resolve a blocking issue, that holdup wastes a lot of time. Team members could even lose an entire day of work. Delays can disrupt the delivery timeline of the project, which is why the team should reduce unnecessary handoffs, even if they cannot be eliminated entirely.

Identify dependencies early and plan for them accordingly to help reduce these disruptions. Build better communication practices to ease knowledge sharing and minimize hand-offs.

It is also a good practice to co-locate the Product Owner with the Development teams to facilitate collaboration and communication. If the Product Owner cannot work at that location, managers can empower and encourage local team members.

6. HIRE MOTIVATED PEOPLE
While it is difficult to assess self-motivation, remote workers must work harder than a local team to communicate, stay focused and be productive, so it is an important criterion to evaluate. Co-located team members should also work to bridge the communication gap and engage their remote peers.

7. USE COLLABORATION TOOLS
Communication is one of the foundational aspects of distributed Agile team management. SaaS tools can facilitate communication and collaboration to boost the productivity of the team.

Use tools for conferencing, screen sharing and sending messages among team members. Plenty of options are available, so find the ones that suit your team size and requirements. If necessary, schedule training sessions so that every team member knows how to get the most out of these tools.

8. KNOW YOUR PEOPLE
Build rapport across the team. Put work aside on occasion and take time to get to know every team member individually. This effort builds trust and boosts morale considerably.

Regular video conferences and occasional visits to remote offices also help build rapport based on personal connections. And constantly encourage open communication. It takes time to establish trust with a co-worker who appears more often as an email address than as a familiar face. However, it is a worthwhile undertaking because Agile requires team transparency.

ADAPTED FROM
How to make distributed Agile teams efficient and collaborative:
TechTarget

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