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Geographically distributed or dispersed teams can impact the effectiveness of a Scrum development team – especially in the way in which they communicate and collaborate.  Teams are ideally located in an open, co-located space and globally dispersed resources should be on webcam.


The top three geographically dispersed team challenges are:

  • Time Zones
    • We may be at work when offshore team is sleeping
  • Language and Accents
    • Do we all understand each other?
    • Do we need translators?
  • Culture
    • “Break a leg”
    • “We hit that one out of the park”
    • “Comb the desert”


Sometimes, we don’t have a choice as to where our team’s resources are located.  Many companies are adopting an offshore staffing model, because quite frankly, offshore resources are cheaper.  So how can we effectively address challenges that teams face from being geographically dispersed?  Here are some tips:

  1. Hold teleconference calls or video conference meetings at a mutual time for geographically dispersed teams
  2. Have geographically dispersed team members participate in meetings on webcam.
  3. Refrain from using culture-specific phrases or slang, especially when working with team members where English is not their native language. Speak more slowly, clearly, and use more simple words to clearly communicate.
  4. Streamline communications. Clear communication is key to effective collaboration and productivity of a team.  For communication that is relationship-driven, utilize multiple communication tools, including email, texting, chat platforms (e.g. Slack), Instant Messaging, etc.
  5. Utilize tools or shared documents to improve transparency and visibility of the Product and Sprint Backlog as well as supporting documentation (screenshots, wireframes, business rules, acceptance criteria, sprint burndown charts, definition of done, risk register, impediment log, RAID Log, activity diagrams, actual user stories, etc).
  6. Build and strengthen relationships. Especially with resources who are remote, strengthening business relationships can be essential.  Devise a strategy for continuing to develop your strong relationships and introduce relationship-building activities to address the weak relationships.  Constantly assess weak relationships and ask yourself why they are weak and how they can be improved.
  7. Focus on getting the work done and the actual project deliverables, not the processes and tools used to complete deliverables.

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