Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Succeeding with Distributed Agile Teams

Today I published a blog post at Global Distributed Agile Consortium blog. That post is about providing a single and stable platform to geographically distributed teams. I used the term ‘a single and stable platform’ as a metaphor to mean a seamless work atmosphere or ecosystem in terms of technology, people practices, issue management, collaboration, and knowledge management and so on. That is a tall order. I agree.
When there is no single and stable platform, teams operate in different directions. Besides, when there is a lack of attention or focus or governance, software projects go out of control.
Years ago, I started coaching a team. This team was doing all it can to deliver working software iteration after iteration. However, everyone in that team lived with ’we-are-being-pushed’ feeling. The team members were supposed to be working collaboratively with the other two geographically distributed teams. All three teams put together were not collaborative enough. One team was persistent in demonstrating one-upmanship. There were double standards in adhering to standard operational procedures or established policies. There was a constant nudging from one side to the other. The other two teams were taking the load and stretching to deliver. As a result, the atmosphere was getting polluted with animosity, indifference, ambiguity, artificial harmony and lack of empathy.
On a positive note, they had a good infrastructure, tools and systems in place. Not a bad start at all. Within my first two weeks I could perceive the absence of something – I mean the absence of a ‘single and stable platform’. There was no shared vision. There was no handshake or coordination among teams. There was some level of disconnect. I heard team members in one location telling someone in the other continent, ‘I don’t think we are on the same page. It does not work that way!’  Days went by. And they stayed on their own pages – I am sure you get what I mean. They went on for several days without resolving a bunch of cold issues.  Reason?  Absence of a single and stable platform.  Every team was on its own platform at different levels and operating with their own perspectives.
I had a month and a half to turn around the situation – not a complete turnaround but a turnaround that can reduce negativity and boost the motivation levels. That was our first goal. We accomplished that. And we worked together over the next two months to improve the situation further.
So, let me ask. What do we need to do to establish a single and stable platform in geographically distributed teams? Here, platform does not mean technology platform. It encompasses several things, right from establishing a shared vision to ensuring inclusion across teams. There are many more. When you ensure all these you have a single and stable platform. That is the lifeline of teams.
I am not intending to sound philosophical. You know, this is not about philosophy. This is about our day-to-day challenges and things that happen on the ground.
The metaphor - 'single and stable platform' consolidates both the hard and soft aspects involved in enabling seamless delivery in geographically distributed teams.  Distributed development is a complex thing. The rules of the game are different here.  To make things better, we must convert sound practices in to principles and start adhering to principles so that the consequences are positive.  Violation of fundamental principles is what hurts projects, project teams and stakeholders. That is the truth.
Adhering to principles that enable success in distributed agile is, I think a graceful start in this journey. For more information on these principles read my post ‘Distributed Agile: A Single and Stable Platform’.


No comments: