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Emerging Practices to Cheerlead Your Distributed Teams From Good to Great

April 30, 2017

"As remote teams become more and more common, Scrum Masters must find a way to effectively do Scrum while working with far flung team members."

"We are not a software development company, what you are talking works only for software development. We operate in a very different business. That stuff just doesn't work in our context." I am sure this is not your first time reading or hearing something along these lines. 

Today's reality is that whether they know or not, every other company is a software company. And with that, we can't ignore the fact that dealing with the complexity of software development becomes a key skill that organizations need to cope with. According to research conducted by Forrester in 2015, Agile is pervasive across all types of businesses and development organizations, with more and more organizations adopting Agile. On top of that, distributed Agile teams are the norm. Only 10% have fully localized teams. 

In this blog post, I would like to share a few of the emerging practices that I applied from the Book The Cheerleading Principle, by Charlotte Bendermacher and Vikram Kapoor. I've applied these practices in the teams I've worked with and found theme extremely useful. 

  1. Becoming a Team - A team is much more than a group of individuals. To promote the feeling of being a true team, despite the distance, try spending some time talking about things other than work. Also, on the dev side of things, having clear common goals and working toward those goals is an important aspect of team building. Create a platform that fosters constructive feedback and, of course, get the leadership right (leadership that provides clear vision, challenges the status quo, removes roadblocks, and cheerleads to the goals).

  2. Create Trust - If a team is an engine then Trust is the lubricant. Trust your offshore teams as you would trust your onsite colleagues. Having an environment that fosters openness - where it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. An environment where people are encouraged to speak their mind helps build trust. One of the simplest things that I've seen helping teams is having an open space culture in the office - having transparent glass walls as team room walls. Having all information accessible to onsite and offshore teams. Human beings are visual beings, making goals more visual using information radiators makes them more transparent.

  3. Make important decisions together - It is important that whatever decisions are made by distributed teams are transparent and made together. This small practice helps to strengthen the trust team members have in one another and leaves no room for assumptions. I've also leveraged techniques like Mob Programming with geographically dispersed teams over Lync calls - it was a bit challenge in the beginning but when people saw its benefits they started doing it more often, they started collaborating more. Of course, there are many more ways to work collaboratively, but the bottom line is that you should make important decisions together. 

  4. Kick-On Together - One of the great emerging practices of my all time favorites is Kick-On. At Prowareness, whenever we start a new Scrum team, we kickstart the team by creating a Team Vision. As Simon Sinek says, START WITH WHY. Create a Team Manifesto/Team agreement, and a cultural workshop to create awareness about the cultures of the offshore and onsite teams, for example, Dutch and Indian Culture. Respecting each other's culture is an important key to success in a distributed Agile environment.

  5. Celebrate Experiments - Celebrations create energy and inspire teams to go the extra mile. Agile and Scrum is based on empiricism and fosters an exploratory mindset which requires people to try out new things and innovate without hesitation. This requires leadership to create a Fail Safe environment where people feel safe and are inspired to experiment. Having an environment of celebrating experiments creates synergy and teams are inspired to deliver more cheerleading results.

Great teams need great cheerleaders. By continuously motivating and cheering these aspects teams embark on their journey from good to great.

Are you a cheerleader? How are you cheerleading your teams? What are your cheerleading principles? I would love to hear from you.

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