Archive for the ‘Practices’ Category

  • Encouraging Involvement in Distributed Teams

    Encouraging Involvement in Distributed Teams

    Mar 14, 11 • In Basics, Featured, Practices, Tips & Hacks

    One of the biggest challenges in remote work is simply making sure everyone has a strong sense of involvement. In this article Steven Baker, a veteran of dispersed agile software development teams, shares his experiences and recommendations for keeping the communication, camaraderie, and personal connections alive in a distributed setting. When you don’t occupy the same office for the same period of time every day with your co-workers, you can’t walk to your co-worker’s desk, or turn around in your chair to have a chat about what you’re working on. There is no water cooler to mill around get in the loop on what’s happening, and having lunch together is difficult. Differences in location, timezone, and working hours, can all combine to make you and the members of your team disconnected from each other. This

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  • 5, 6, 7, 8, who do we appreciate?

    5, 6, 7, 8, who do we appreciate?

    Dec 13, 10 • In Practices

    In a dispersed team it is more important than ever to make a habit of showing appreciation for a job well done. A quick article today since I don’t have a lot of time. If you’re a regular reader you know I’m a big advocate of practicing regular retrospectives in distributed teams. In one of the the teams I work with right now, he first item on the retrospective template we use is “appreciations”. We take time at the beginning of the meeting to recognize the efforts of members of the team who have gone above & beyond. Anyone can pipe up, and the recognitions can be for anything from fixing a nasty bug over the weekend to being extra helpful on Campfire. When you don’t see each other every day, it’s easy to forget

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  • Ask the experts: Adding a new member to a dispersed team

    Ask the experts: Adding a new member to a dispersed team

    Dec 6, 10 • In Practices

    Bringing a new member into a distributed team poses special problems. How do you introduce your team’s culture, rhythms, and practices to a new coworker when they can’t sit in the same room with you? I asked some seasoned remote-work pros for their advice. Here’s what they had to say. David Browning of Two Guys had this to say: Bring them into all methods of communication.  If necessary, explain the differences between each and what they’re used for (Skype vs Campfire vs Basecamp vs whatever-tool). Preferably you have a standup, so having them talk and hear others talk is a good way for everyone to feel more comfortable speaking their mind and getting to know one another. Nudge them to speak more if they’re shy at first, once they open up you should be good

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  • Saving the Day with Social Media

    Saving the Day with Social Media

    Nov 29, 10 • In Practices

    One of the biggest struggles in a dispersed team is to maintain a sense of connection with your coworkers. Social media can play a role in keeping the team together. It was one of those days. Things just weren’t going right and I felt like everything – and everyone – was against me. I posted a frustrated, grumpy Tweet (squawk?) to Twitter. If this were a story in the traditional media about the “risks of social media” this is where you might expect the story to get really bad – the boss sees the tweet, and all hell breaks loose. What actually happened was this: a coworker – someone I hadn’t yet met in person, and whom I hadn’t really gotten to know – IMed me privately to see if I was OK. They asked

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  • Conquering “The Fear”: 5 pointers for stress-free management of remote teams

    Conquering “The Fear”: 5 pointers for stress-free management of remote teams

    Nov 15, 10 • In Basics, Practices

    Managing a dispersed team for the first time can be pretty scary. How will you know if everyone is doing their jobs and staying on schedule? Here are some tips that will have you breathing easy again. Here’s the situation: you’re leading a dispersed team for the first time.  You’ve had a kickoff meetup so that everyone could meet face to face. You’ve assembled your collaboration tools. You’ve scheduled daily standup meeting at a time when everyone is available. But now the project has started, and you’re starting to get anxious. What is everyone doing right now? Are they working? Do they really understand their tasks? Are they on schedule? Are they being distracted by their families? Don’t look now, but you’ve got The Fear. It’s a creeping anxiety that affects many managers who have

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  • Have a spam day! Making communication tools fun.

    Have a spam day! Making communication tools fun.

    Nov 8, 10 • In Practices

    Picking a new team communication tool is one thing. Getting everyone to use it is another. Here’s a fun technique for easing adoption of a new tool. So you’ve evaluated the options and picked a chat tool for your distributed team. Or a presence app. Or maybe you’ve decided to use video mail. Now you have another challenge ahead of you: getting everyone to use it. Some people are natural early adopters. I’ll try any tool out if it’s new and interesting, and keep using it if I find it helpful. Others are slower to change. One way to get over that initial resistance to a new tool is to make a game of it. One one of the teams I work with, the engineering leadership decided to roll out Yammer for status updates and

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  • Meetings and Distributed Introverts

    Meetings and Distributed Introverts

    Nov 5, 10 • In Experiences, Practices

    For an introvert, any meeting can be trying. In this guest article, contributor Chris Strom talks about how distributed meetings are especially taxing for those of an introverted bent, and some of his strategies for coping. I am a strong introvert. As with most introverts, I lose energy when I interact with people. Meetings, in particular, drain me. Since they are a staple of a professional career, I have built up something of a tolerance for meetings. Remote meetings, however, continue to confound me. Everything about remote meetings saps more energy than the in-person equivalent. By itself, any one thing does not amount to much. But, by the end of a meeting, I am completely drained. I have no fight left. I care more about reaching the end than reaching consensus. In my experience, eye

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  • Retrospectives for Dispersed Teams

    Retrospectives for Dispersed Teams

    Oct 28, 10 • In Practices

    Many agile teams practice regular retrospectives – meetings where they evaluate review recent progress, events, and challenges, gauge the team’s mood, and propose changes to the way they work. For distributed teams, the retrospective is especially important. Here are some tips for holding a retrospective with a remote team. In any team it’s a good idea to take some time regularly to look back, discuss what went well and what went not so well, and make adjustments. In Agile software development this meeting is known as a Retrospective. Esther Derby and Diana Larsen describe a Retrospective like this: A special meeting where the team gathers after completing an increment of work to inspect and adapt their methods and teamwork. For dispersed teams, retrospectives are essential. Because dispersed teams are so dependant on effective practices and

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  • Avoid meeting hiccups with a dress rehearsal

    Avoid meeting hiccups with a dress rehearsal

    Oct 26, 10 • In Practices

    Coordinating a large remote meeting can seem like putting on a major stage production. Make sure your meetings go off without a hitch by practicing first. Picture this: it’s time for the very first whole-company monthly meeting since adding remote team members to the team. The presentation slides are all ready, everyone is at their desk, the clock is ticking – and half the company can’t connect to the videoconferencing server. You start a frantic troubleshooting session. People are tapping their fingers. Your manager starts wondering if building a dispersed team was such a great idea. This scenario is all too common in distributed teams. The fact is, remote workers are dependent on technology in order to make collaboration possible, and that technology doesn’t always perform as expected – often going down at the worst

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  • The Endless Break

    The Endless Break

    Oct 18, 10 • In Practices

    Everyone needs to take a break from time to time, especially if you’ve been collaborating closely for an hour or more. But when working together remotely, breaks have a way of stretching out longer than intended. Here’s one simple rule for avoiding the Endless Break. It’s a common enough scenario: you work together with a coworker for an hour or so, and then you hit a stopping point and decide to take a 5-minute breather. Both of you go for a walk, maybe grab some water, and then head back to the desk and sit down again to get some more work done. When collaborating remotely, it doesn’t always work out like that. You get back to your desk, and check your teammate’s IM status. It doesn’t say “away”, but she hasn’t posted anything on

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