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Tuesday, August 7 • 09:00 - 09:30
You Have to Say More There: Effective Communication in a Distributed Agile Team (Johanna Rothman, Mark Kilby)

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For years, we’ve heard that only collocated teams can use agile approaches. This disregards the roughly 50% of agile teams who already are distributed or dispersed and their successes or failures. Instead of assuming agile teams can only be collocated, what if we wrote a book to help distributed and dispersed teams see options for their agile success?
As we co-wrote the book, we realized we were living the same principles as distributed and dispersed agile teams do. We worked in short timeboxes and reflected often. We chose to write together, rather than separately. (We did choose to create images separately so we could then discuss them together.)
We created at least two communication paths as backup for our primary path so we always had a way to talk with each other (google docs, Zoom, and text message). We learned the power of a streak, to continue writing every day (or as close to it as we could) to finish paragraphs, sections, and chapters. We learned how to use the tools and when to evolve the tools we used. We looked like an agile team, with continuous integration, continuous delivery (to each other), and continual reflection and refinement.
We also learned several key phrases that helped us learn when we worked well and not so well together. Some of these phrases are:
  • "You have to say more about that" (signaling it might be clear to one of us, but concerned a type of reader may not understand)
  • "When I’m not so tired, I’m pretty human" or "the writer did not show up today" (reflect our readiness to work and where we might lean on the other person)
  • Mind if I tweak that? (to switch pairing)
  • "I found where you are" and "Let me click to where you are" (when we needed to synchronize where we were working - in a Google doc)
  • "I’m okay with that" (reviewing work)
  • Comments, highlights and XX marks the spot for more work
View the Experience Report

Lessons Learned from Your Experience:
  • How checkins are valuable to reset/recreate our work together, by syncing on our context every time we worked together. (And allowed for a little whining about the weather.).
  • How cadences in writing are different than timeboxes.
  • How to pair at distance. How writing together made our work stronger (ideas and writing).
  • How to articulate our working agreements and evolve them.
  • Guidelines for pair writing at distance.
  • How to recognize key phrases that help a team write together.
  • How quick reflection can help collaboration.
  • How we could declare done or done for now: chapter goal, word count, and our definition of done


avatar for Mark Kilby

Mark Kilby

Agile Coach, K5Labs LLC
Mark Kilby coaches leaders, teams and organizations on how to work more effectively, whether they are distributed or collocated.  For over two decades, his easy-going style has helped his client learn to collaborate and discover their path to success and sustainability.Sometimes... Read More →
avatar for Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman

President, Rothman Consulting
Johanna Rothman, known as the "Pragmatic Manager," provides frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams see problems and resolve risks and manage their product development. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. Johanna is the author of several books... Read More →

Tuesday August 7, 2018 09:00 - 09:30 PDT
Torrey Pines Room 1, 2, & 3