Successful Distributed Agile Teams

Successful Distributed Agile Teams

by Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby

Successful distributed agile teams, while not common, do exist. If you’ve been lucky enough to work on one of those teams, you discovered that the team members aligned on the work. It’s not actually luck. These teams collaborate to deliver value and satisfy customers.

Created by:
Johanna Rothman
Johanna Rothman
Mark Kilby
Mark Kilby

Build & Grow Your Successful Distributed Agile Team

More than half of all agile teams are distributed. Each team uniquely collaborates across different timezones and locations.
What makes them successful?

Our eight principles can guide your team to success, not just for agile success, but for team collaboration and delivery.

Use the eight principles to assess your current practices and then build and grow your successful distributed agile team.

It’s not about time zones;
it’s about hours of overlap

Not everyone works in their “native” time zone. However, when people work in their “time zone of choice” team members can create hours of overlap. When entire teams create four or more hours of overlap in their workdays, they can use the agile principles, their working agreements, and their experiments to create their agile approach.

It’s not about agile practices;
it’s about agile principles

Replicating agile practices developed for collocated teams typically becomes the first stumbling block for distributed teams. (Think of 3 a.m. standups.) These teams need time to look back at agile principles, and start from the principles to create their agile practices to encourage collaboration to create product value.

It’s not about standardizing;
it’s about experimenting

Distributed teams can capitalize on their uniqueness, rather than try to fit into one standard approach. When teams embrace experimentation including reflection on their work for their practices, they can create an environment that encourages experimentation for the product, the metrics, for everything.

Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Today’s Reality, Not Unicorns

With a combined 50+ years of experience, Johanna and Mark captured the key concepts that allow distributed teams to succeed as agile teams. While technology has accelerated the opportunities for collaboration, the behaviors of teams and leadership becomes the key deciding factor in how distributed teams leverage agile approaches.

Successful distributed agile teams collaborate as a team, regardless of where the people are in time and space.

  • Collaboration at all team locations
  • Collaboration at all levels of the organization
  • Collaboration goes beyond collocation to enable value delivery across the globe

Sample Survey Items

We have a minimum of four hours of overlap for all team members without mandated timeshifting.
No one on the team hides problems.
When more than one team collaborates, they can see each other’s backlogs, roadmaps, and what blocks any team from finishing.
Teams use appropriate experimental methods to test improvement hypotheses.
The team members use video to see everyone’s faces when they work together.
The team collaboratively looks for ways to reduce WIP (work in progress).

Sample Survey Items

Establish Acceptable Hours of Overlap

We have a minimum of four hours of overlap for all team members without mandated timeshifting.

Team Transparency

No one on the team hides problems.

Cross-Team Transparency

When more than one team collaborates, they can see each other’s backlogs, roadmaps, and what blocks any team from finishing.
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Top Features

Principle-based assessments to assess your team’s present and visualize a possible future.

Benchmark your distributed agile success against peers in the industry.

Decide where to invest—and not invest—in an agile approach for your products based on your teams, programs, and organization.

Applies to all levels of your organization - team, program and entire organization.

Principle-based assessments to assess your team’s present and visualize a possible future.

Benchmark your distributed agile success against peers in the industry.

Decide where to invest—and not invest—in an agile approach for your products based on your teams, programs, and organization.

Applies to all levels of your organization - team, program and entire organization.

Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman

Mark Kilby

Mark Kilby

Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby collaborated as a geographically distributed agile team on their groundbreaking book, From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams.

Their eight principles explain how team members can be physically apart and still highly collaborative. With the eight principles, teams can fulfill the agile promise: deliver high quality, customer satisfying software, with the ease and speed that companies want.

Try it out now!

Fuel data-driven continuous improvement efforts at the team, program and organizational levels through uncommon insights and actionable feedback.