Distributed Scrum Teams

I was looking for inspiration for my next blog post when I found a notification telling me that I had an article sitting in my drafts section.  Distributed Scrum Teams was the title and it took me back to 4 years previous when this topic came into my head.  I was going to tell you about the successes that I had using distributed teams but I deleted all that.  As I began to edit the post I realised just how far we have come in just a few years and decided to highlight that instead.

When I started out in 2006 there was a lot of chatter about how distributed teams were not Scrum.  If you were using distributed teams, you were breaking the values of Scrum and that was bad.

“Scrum best practices indicate you should be physically near the rest of your team members, actually located in the same area of your work space. How can you effectively apply the tenets of Scrum when working with a distributed team, if you are breaking one of the key best practices? Or deal with the challenges of trying to detail a spec, but keep an agile and open development flow? or Communicate to a remote team the business priorities?” Jessica Johnson.

Fast forward to today and the landscape is so much different in 2018.  A massive change for me has been the way businesses work nowadays.  Businesses have moved with the times by introducing flexible working.  Some have decided to save in business rates by introducing rotas on when different teams can work within the office space to save them the cost of having to buy bigger offices.  This means that teams will be working from home more.  So your colocated team now becomes distributed to an extent.  It may not be possible for businesses to be fully colocated these days.

My previous company had distributed teams that had team members based across all of our UK offices.  Not only that, there were people working from home too.  We had daily standups via Skype where everyone had their camera turned on and one person shared the board to make it visible to everyone.  The team gave their updates just like they would in a physical standup and to facilitate any follow up conversations that occur from  the standup, we had a parking lot after the call where people would would stay to discuss anything that they felt needed discussed.  We used Skype for all of our ceremonies and tried to have the whole team together once a fortnight for planning.  This worked well for us.

I recently worked with a colocated team who were using a digital and physical representation of their Scrum Board.  The main physical wall worked as a big information radiator for the team and anyone else in the department who would take an interest.  The digital board was used to mirror our physical board.  This meant that people could work from home or Flexi time if needed.  The level of collaboration within this team was on par with the level of collaboration within my distributed team.  Each team had found the best way to work for them and improved upon this as they worked together.

In my personal experience it does not make much difference if a team are colocated or distributed these days.  The main barrier is the team themselves.  They must be committed and willing to collaborate with each other to make things work.  Maybe in the past the tools that we have to help us collaborate weren’t as powerful as they are today and I think this may be a huge factor in why it was considered bad practice to have a distributed team.  But now there are so many avenues open to teams to aid collaboration when they are not in the same office.  It is all inspecting and adapting along with your team and continually improving the way that you work together.  It will be hard to begin with but if it was easy, it would be boring 🙂

It was interesting writing this article.  It highlighted to me that not only is out teams constantly changing and improving but the business landscape too.  I wonder if all of those people who were complaining about distributed teams in the past are now embracing the change or even realise that this has happened.


Blogging and I.

I have been maintaining my blog for a while, quite loosely as you will see.  I often found myself having great ideas to post but when I sit down to actually write a blog post, they never seem to fit together well and ultimately they don’t get written.  I really need to practice what I preach and stop starting, start finishing!  I thought to myself.

It wasn’t until I started to listen to Geoff Watts audio book on Product Mastery  that I realised where I was going wrong.  When it comes to blogging, I needed to be more decisive (apparently my wife has been telling me this for years :D).

One sentence that stuck with me was “When things become difficult, it is tempting to put them off, to do a bit more research”.   Then another “The result, nothing of value is actually delivered”.  Both summed up my situation.

It really struck home today when I was sitting down to write a blog post on my first assignment as a contractor.  I had written all of the ideas that I had down on a piece of paper to get some structure before I would begin to type the post.  There were so many ideas in my head that I was getting nowhere fast.  I decided to clear my head and go for a run.

While out on the run I thought about the other things that I had to do today and suddenly it hit me.  I was subconsciously putting off the blog post as it had become too hard to write.  But why was the post so hard to write?  I went through all of the ideas I had and realised that I was trying to fit three blog posts into one and because it wasn’t fitting perfectly the perfectionist in me decided that the post wasn’t a good idea.  I realised that I have done this with so many blog posts in the past and it was something that I needed to fix.

I came back from the run and decided that I had to break the massive post down.  I decided to fact check the two quotes used by Geoff above when I found the tweet below, which summed up my predicament perfectly.


This made me smile as I had already realised that the expectations for my blog post were unrealistic and decided to break the big post down into manageable chunks.  It then led me to write this blog post.  The outcome, I delivered value and have a couple of blog posts that actually make sense to me and will be easy to write.

It is amazing what taking a little time to clear your head can achieve.  I realised a lot about myself today in that when I get an idea for a blog post I try to cram as much into that idea as possible to a point where it becomes too big to actually do anything with.  I have a lot of knowledge, experiences and practices that I try to get across but have a tendency to overdo it which leads me to lose confidence and scrap that idea.  Being decisive about the content you want to appear in your post and not being scared to take things out that just don’t need to be there is key.

Hopefully this results in more blog posts from me in the future 🙂

Cheers Geoff 🙂