Saturday, March 22, 2008

Redefining "Distance" in a distributed Scrum team

While most of the bibliography about Scrum implementations address the challenge of having a distributed or a dispersed team with a strong advisory "WARNING - Do not use Agile in distributed teams, simply it does not work" , many of us have to deal with the reality of implementing agile in a distributed environment. I do not even know about any company that has not distributed issues:

  • Distributed customers

  • Distributed assets

  • Distributed knowledge

  • Distributed personnel

Then we cannot heed the fact of distribution of problems.

Then I would like to re-define the "Distance" concept used in Scrum teams. The fact that a Scrum team is in the same room, plenty of blackboards and little yellow papers does not mean that necessarily that the team is within a short distance. There are some other variables which must be analyzed as different forms of "separation".
There is an excellent article written by John Puopolo in the Scrum Alliance site: "Be there or be Square" that states most of these dimensions. One common conclusion is that it is impossible to be agile if you are separated. I would like to re-analyze this concept by redefining the Distance in Scrum concept:

Distance_in_Scrum = Multi-dimensional variable measured between different forms of separations:

  • A = Customer distance

  • B = Geographical separations

  • C = Business/Technology separations

  • D = Separations in Time and Chronobiology separations

  • E = Skills separations

  • F = Cultural separations

  • G = Organizational distances

Distance in Scrum Teams = f(A, B, C, D, E, F, G)

Multivariable Analysis

I would like to decompose the analysis of each variable in further blog's entries. From a systems point of view, each variable here represents a challenge in itself.

Many companies make the mistake of believing in Communication Technology as Distance Remedy, while the Dislocated communication media, can alleviate the problem, E-mail, Chat, Wiki sites, Phone calls, Phone meetings are of course less effective than the communication taking in-person. I have seen people seated at 2 meters of physical distance that do not communicate each other for weeks (working in the same project!)

Chronobiology is also another important topic I want to analyze. Global teams must understand the West-East effect of the Circadian Rhythm when time zones are really different, but also the longer cycle that derive from the North-South effect of being here in summer in Argentina when my colleagues are suffering a cold winter (!). There is no much research on that and I'm sure it impact on the global team performance.

Next entry I am going to analyze the chronobiology impact in Scrum teams distance.

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