Communication Tips For Dispersed and Distributed Teams

Let's get started with the difference between dispersed and distributed teams. If you have multiple teams, each from different geographical location, they are distributed teams. If the teams are consist of people located differently, they are dispersed teams.

In VNGRS we are working with dispersed and distributed teams successfully. In both cases, you need to have a solid line of information flow between teams and team members. Agile manifesto clearly states the importance of communication and interactions. VNGRS is located in Istanbul, but we are working with the team members all around the world, which also includes a time difference problem (or an advantage). Despite of time and location difference, how we can manage to work agile successfully?

Like I said earlier, communication is the key. Here are some tips for better communication between teams and team members.

Never skip daily meetings.

Daily meetings are the pillars of agile meetings. Everything starts with daily meeting, if you are answering the 3 main questions.  "What are you going to do?" will breed the need of planning and backlog grooming sessions. "What you have done?" will direct us to the review meetings. "Do you have blockers" will be the basis of future retrospectives. No matter what, find a intercept between time-zones and never skip the daily. I mentioned about the time-difference disadvantage earlier. But we turned it to an advantage. The daily meetings help the development keep going on for almost 18 hours a day. Our day ends with daily, we deliver our daily to offshore teams, and they start their day.

Developers are humans, interact with them.

Use video tools instead of emails. Non-verbal actions and body language tells more than words. Every day seeing a face creates human inter-action, which also helps improve the quality of communication. Start the daily conversations with a chit-chat. Ask the weather over there, for example. Cultural fit is important for creating team culture and create a team culture together. If you are working with different nationalities, learn their culture. Celebrate their holidays. Respect their beliefs.

Be open, honest and speak up.

Transparency and honesty are the main values of agile. Be positive, be constructive. If you are not convinced about anything, an architectural decision or potential out-put of the feature, speak up. Explain the reasons and consequences to all the team members and act together. Come up to a consensus and never leave a member behind/unconvinced. If you are on the business/management side, tell about the upcoming business ideas, share the road-map regularly.

Try to organise face-to-face meetings at least once a year.

If you are working for a long term project or for an ongoing product, organise face-to-face meetings. If you know someone in person, it will be easier to connect. Every team goes thru "Maturity Stages"  and a strong relationship will speed up reaching the performing stage.