Managing Agile teams across the Globe

Managing Agile teams across the Globe

  1. For managing Agile teams across the Globe, it is advisable to try agile locally first so it’s established in the culture rather than going for global distribution with your first agile project. While tempting, we chose instead to try to divide along the lines of functional feature teams. Make sure you organize the people in cross-functional, feature teams. Organizing the people in a granary, such as developers or testers, introduces delays into the project. The most important goal is to group developers and testers together, but there is great success distributing detailed story/requirements development to the remote team as well. Create a hybrid, customized agile model that works for all teams when you come together.
  2. It is essential to ensure that all tools, particularly for build and test automation, are standardized and consistently configured and applied by each and everyone involved in the project.
  3. Another possible structure for distributing work is to divide along the boundaries of maintenance and support for existing legacy products versus strategic investment in new products and technologies. Enable knowledge sharing throughout distributed teams. Have regular knowledge sharing meetings and ensure that there is a secure back up plan in the event of redistribution, people leaving or people joining. If you distribute the unseemly work to other locations, then you should assume that you will have retention issues there as well. Instead, assume that every member of your teams no matter where they are located needs the same things – interesting and meaningful work and an understanding of the impact their work will have on the company as a whole.
  4. Create a simple but comprehensive email, video, phone and messaging communications strategy that links to a central record system so that information is neither missed out nor duplicated. Recording audio from conference calls and screens from slide presentations keep team members informed if they cannot attend in real time. This is especially helpful for informing offshore team members in crucial content meetings, such as agile planning. As we all know Agile Testing – A Definite ‘Yes’ for Testers!, so agile planning is a must no matter where you are located. Just beware that without the interactivity, it is harder for people to remain engaged. Create links to a central record system so that information is neither missed out nor duplicated and try to keep it short.
  5. There is nothing more hazardous to any project, distributed or not, than team leaders that are not invested in making the structure work. Create a Team of Teams with at least one representative from every geographically distributed sub team as a member and get them to meet at the initial stage of the project at the central project location to work out the key strategies and processes we are discussing here. Project work is always demanding, so if leaders are looking for an excuse to fail, they will find an easy excuse in blaming the remote teams for not doing their part. You also need leaders like this in each locale, so having fewer groups with larger teams improves your odds that you can find the leadership talent you need.
  6. Manual or Automation Testing is the key for distributed agile delivery as it speeds up processes such as testing so that one team is not left waiting for another to complete a task. It also standardizes processes which has a positive impact on internal and external quality.
  7. Spread the discomfort of planning times around. If you have team members spread across many time zones, spread the discomfort of the planning times across the entire team, not just the one or two team members who are most dispersed.
  8. Some teams may be tempted to assign people in one location one role. Yet team members on agile teams are encouraged to share roles. The solution: Cross-functional teams by location, working on a subset of your project. This improves communication between locals, reducing overhead.
  9. Never compromise on quality. Enhance the planning process to ensure that all backlog items cover the required functional and non-functional elements. The team owns the quality of the software, by encouraging a global quality focus with collective ownership; the adoption objectives should be achieved.
  10. Break language barriers. Even when remote team members speak the same language, don’t assume smooth communications. Consider that some people have heavier accents than others. Language barriers can particularly impact the efficiency of agile teams, which include daily stand up meetings. One solution is to assign a spokesperson with better language skills in the team’s common language (English, for example). Also, be mindful of cultural metaphors and idioms that may not make sense in other countries.

 

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