30 August 2013

Is managing remote teams different from managing a local team?Is het managen van een team op afstand anders dan het managen van een lokaal team?Är det någon skillnad mellan att leda team på distans och att leda team lokalt? Ist das Managen von entfernten Teams anders als das Verwalten von lokalen Teams?

About Hugo Messer

Hugo Messer is a Dutch entrepreneur, distributed agile team specialist, and author. He is the founder and owner of Bridge Global, a software services provider, and ekipa.co., an agile coaching agency. He has been building and managing teams around the world for the past several years. His passion is to enable people that are spread across cultures, geography and time zones to cooperate. Whether it’s offshoring or nearshoring, he knows what it takes to make global cooperation work.

2 thoughts on “Is managing remote teams different from managing a local team?Is het managen van een team op afstand anders dan het managen van een lokaal team?Är det någon skillnad mellan att leda team på distans och att leda team lokalt? Ist das Managen von entfernten Teams anders als das Verwalten von lokalen Teams?
  1. Dear Hugo,
    It’s interesting subject i.e. Managing Distributed teams but you don’t need to outsource or offshore your teams to experience the challenges. During one of coaching assignment when I was asked to help to setup distributed team across UK and India, first question I raised was are we ready for it. When I was asked what does it mean? I suggested lets distribute the team we already have the moment. So we took two complete Scrum teams and asked them to sit on different floor for a month and requested them only to communicate via technology i.e. Skype, Phone, VC etc. so that we know what are the possible challenges we will have to face once we start working with India based teams. These teams has been working for together for past 1 year and were based on agile/lean principles and values. Once we distributed teams we didn’t find many issues except when I asked them to change their working hours so we can overlap the time bit so one team started at 8 (Indian team) and other at 11 (UK team). We found that once we changed the timings we got some leg time to get answer from PO who was working on UK timings. So we asked PO to start work from home and start early so that we can align a bit to India team that improved the situation.

    Now question is not that it was easy to setup an distributed team but that if we teams had not known each other, product, technology, environment etc. they would have struggle so we decided to go this path

    1. We will choose the team by working with offshore partner i.e. interviewing them, discussing their career goal etc.
    2. Once we have a cross-functional team we will bring them onsite for 2 months (4 sprints in our case) so that they can be build relationship with teams in UK and know people face-to-face.
    3. We treated them like our own people and didn’t differentiated for anything. They had access to everything that other teams has
    4. We set the expectation with offshore partner management team to keep the overhead very lean i.e. we need manager who can server these team and not other way around.
    5. Once they were onsite we coached them on agile/lean principles and practices (Scrum, XP and Kanban for us)
    6. We empowered them to take their own decision with coaching support
    7. We asked one of our Scrum Master to work with them to coach on Scrum framework and values
    8. After 4 sprints, when they gone back to offshore, we sent the same Scrum Master to help them for another 3 months to ensure that they get similar environment at offshore
    9. We worked with offshore partner to create the similar environment at offshore
    10. We paid our offshore partner what they deserve as we knew that our product success has far more value than what we are paying for our teams so we created a win-win situation

    We also carried on coaching them every now and then by visiting and created a rotation policy to move people from onsite to offshore and vice-versa to keep the momentum.

    After 6 months we gradually scaled to 15 more teams at offshore and our first team started coaching other teams as offshore partner had clear understanding what we are trying to achieve with offshore teams.

    So by focusing on People, Trust, Transparency, Commitment, Communication, Empathy, Respect, Courage we managed to build and scaled our agile teams and kept all principle and values intact.

    So in nutshell building agile teams be it onsite of offshore takes similar effort you just need to show commitment at both end. I am also writing a book on Agile and Offshore and will mentioned most of my stories in my book, how we managed to transform that organisation by using offshore based distributed team and scaled it as well.

    Thanks,
    Dinesh Sharma

  2. Interesting thoughts Hugo.

    And probably you are right. This is a non issue.

    The Red Cross and the Roman Church and maany Multinationals have no problems with managing remote teams.

    The point is you should provide remote teams with proper guidelines and stop trying to manage them.

    Have a great day,
    Koos

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