Lisa Crispin (@lisacrispin) and Abby Bangser(@a_bangser) done this awesome workshop about understanding how to succeed in distributed teams. I went to the workshop thinking that Lisa and Abby will share their experience and give us tips on best practices. How wrong I was. The workshop was exceeded expectations and just blew my mind.
Session started with identifying the issues we have when working with a distributed team. Distributed team can be a offshore team or within the same country in a different location. List goes on as,
- Time zones
- Common understanding of work
- Different testing practices
- Being forgotten
- Not as wanted to the team
- Missing non-verble communication
- Travel cost
- Community availability etc
Then the hands on session began. Format,
- 6 members onsite
- 6 members offsite
- Communicate via Skype and Email
- Product owner is onsite and not willing to travel
- Onsite should share work with offsite
- Onsite and offsite did not have the same tools
- Every task had a time to adhere to
We got pictures of two type. One set have colour codes to follow and some did not. We had to decide what work we need to sent to the other team who were physically far from us. We thought colour coded work should be sent to the other team as they can work independently. We did not assess how difficult they are or the tools they have to complete the task (Mistake). We had to give an estimate on how many colouring we can deliver at the end of 3 sprints. We did not consult the offshore team with the work we are assigning to them but we assume they would be fine(Mistake).
Sprint 1 started. I sat with Lisa who was our product owner and went through the non colour coded pictures asking her what colours she want them to be – role of a business analyst where others are coloring away. We received a sample from the offshore team mid way. We just kept it and did not look at it to see or sent them a reply (Mistake). Well we all were rushing away colouring and negotiating with Lisa with her colour requirements. At the end of the sprint 1 we present all the work to the product owner. All work from offshore team got rejected because they were messy and not according to the standards Lisa wanted. Mini retrospective done after the sprint 1 and we decided to include onsite testing before pass work to product owner (Lesson)
Sprint 2 started. We brief the onsite team what the output of the retrospective but did not tell them anything about what we do(Mistake). We were in a hurry to start/finish work. When samples came from the offshore we checked them and sent some away. Sprint 2 went almost same way as the Sprint 1.(Mistake)
Then all the offshore teams summoned back to the workshop room. Discussion began. Offshore team was not happy – not happy at all…(Lesson). Outcome as below.
- Use the words us and them even it’s a one team
- Different tools
- Different expectations
- Different work
- Quality vs Speed
- Unclear communication
- Have to trust the onsite team on passing information
- Do not see the big picture etc
Then offshore team flew back to their location. This time we kept Skype open all the time (Lesson). We let Lisa talk to the offshore team and explain what she is expecting(Lesson). We asked some work that they are doing even we have different tools (Lesson) and realised the work we sent to them was actually hard and need more time(Lesson). In mid way the product owners decided they do not want any shade of blue in the new pictures and replace it with purple. We were able to send the message right away to the offshore team. Also the offshore team was able to show work to the product owner and get the feedback before the work being sent off.
Feedback after the 3rd sprint was as below.
- Onshore negotiation with product owner for offshore
- Asking for support
- More frequent Skype calls
- More wider direct communication
- “Knowing what we were doing”
- Questioning/justifying assumptions
- Internal checks etc
3rd sprint was a success because of the open communication and knowing what issues offshore team is going through.
Finally the lessons learn were discussed.
- Find out strengths and weakness and how to use them
- Get similar resources as possible
- Share work
- Celebrate success
- Minimise dependencies
- Offer help
In summary, the workshop was a success. We learn so much and me and my colleague is planning to remake the workshop in our office. I am currently planning it and Lisa and Abby is helping me to shape it.
Thank you Lisa, Abby for the great experience and Rosi Sherry(@rosiesherry) for organising this!