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AGILE DISTRIBUTED TEAMS:
OXYMORON OR OPTION?
MARK KILBY - JAN 2018 - DAWSVCON
Community

Group

Support
volunteer
Mark’s distributed agile background …
2001
2003
2008
2012
2013
2016
2014
for hire
consultingacrossindustries
Measuring up to agile
Satisfy the Customer Welcome Change Deliver Frequently
Collaborate Daily
Support & Trust
Motivated Teams
Promote 

Face-to-Face
Conversations
Measured by Working
Software
Promote Sustainable
Pace
Promote Technical
Excellence
Maximize Through
Simplicity
Have 

Self-Organized

Teams
Reflect & Adjust 

Regularly
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
✓
?
Adapted from http://agilemanifesto.org
more info at
http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby
Satellite


one or a few remote
from team
Nebula whole team dispersed
Clusters
team in a
few locations
HOW DO WE HELP PEOPLE 

BE SUCCESSFUL ON 

DISTRIBUTED TEAMS?
PRINCIPLES 

OVER 

PRACTICES & TOOLS
PRINCIPLES 

OVER 

PRACTICES & TOOLS
IN COLLABORATION WITH …
Principle 1: 

Acceptable Hours of Overlap
We get tangled up on time zones but

is that really the problem?

Under what conditions can an distributed team
collaborate in a agile manner?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Distributed Collaboration Limits?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Distributed Collaboration Limits?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Distributed Collaboration Limits?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Cockburn’s limit
45 ft / 13.75 m
(length of US school bus)
Allan’s limit

90 ft / 30 m 

(distance between 

Baseball bases)
Types of Teams
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Geo-fences
Types of Teams
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 2: 

Pervasive Communication
WHY before WHAT

Delegate “How” - don’t tell the teams what to do

Assume multiple communication / learning styles
to absorb new information

Broadcast over the right number of channels

Consider “timing” across different channels
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 2: 

Pervasive Communication
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Facilitators need multiple
tools and techniques
Back Channel - always have all
hailing frequencies open (chat);
someone should always monitor
Buddy System - each remote
person has a “buddy” in the
room to make sure they are
connected to the team
(paired communication)
Co-Pilot – someone at another
location that can help you
coordinate the whole team
(paired facilitation)
more info at http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Facilitators need multiple
tools and techniques
Back Channel - always have all
hailing frequencies open (chat);
someone should always monitor
Buddy System - each remote
person has a “buddy” in the
room to make sure they are
connected to the team
(paired communication)
Co-Pilot – someone at another
location that can help you
coordinate the whole team
(paired facilitation)
more info at http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby
Satellite
Nebula
Clusters
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Nebula
Satellite
Clusters
Principle 3: 

Assume Good Intent
Satir Interaction Model
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 3: 

Assume Good Intent
Trust is reciprocal and earned

Trust has a financial impact

It is difficult to trust unless… 

we can see demonstrations of 

trustworthiness (competency, 

honesty, reliability) 

see http://bit.ly/distributedtrust

we know their natural tendencies
Learning natural
tendencies within a team
EaseofAdoption
Time to Introduce
easy
more 

difficult
1-2 hours week weeks or months
DISC
MBTI
Strength Finder
2.0
Compass
exercise
(diy)
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
North: Acting - “Let’s do it;” Likes to act, try things, plunge in.
South: Caring - likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into
consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting
East: Speculating - likes to look at
the big picture and the
possibilities before acting
West: Paying attention to detail -
likes to know who, what, when,
where and why before acting
Learning natural
tendencies within a team
EaseofAdoption
Time to Introduce
easy
more 

difficult
1-2 hours week weeks or months
DISC
MBTI
Strength Finder
2.0
Compass
exercise
(diy)
Liftoffs (diy)
Other benefits - shared vision, 

working agreements?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 4: Rhythm
Whether time-boxed (e.g., Scrum, XP) or in Flow
(Kanban), all teams have a rhythm

Encourage the team to decide their rhythms as
they form

Encourage the team to change their rhythm when
retrospectives indicate they are not “keeping a
beat”
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 4: Rhythm
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 5: 

Adaptability & Resilience
Can individuals quickly adjust to meet a goal?

Can teams quickly adjust to meet a goal?

Can the organization quickly adjust on goals or approach?

How resilient is the individual / team / organization to
hardship?

Can the organization provide an “adaptive environment”? 

i.e., how much can team control their workspace?
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Checking Adaptability &
Resilience
Example - Communication

How many communications tools are available to the
team? Which are primary and which are backups?

Can anyone on the team start a new communication
channel at any time?

Example - Facilitation

Can anyone on the team facilitate any ceremony?
(backlog refinement, planning, standup, review,
retrospective)
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Promoting Adaptability &
Resilience
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 6: 

Pervasive Collaboration
Deep Focus can be important, but …

Pervasive Collaboration can help you explore
problems and solutions faster
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 7: 

Continuous Improvement
Change leaders should model improvement first

Then focus on the team

Works with rhythm principle
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 7: 

Continuous Improvement
Examples:

Personal - Improvement Days / Mentoring

Team - Retrospective / Training / Meetups
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 8: 

Transparency at all Levels
Keep team spaces as open as possible

“ask questions in public” 

get multiple solutions

you may help educate others with your question

public appreciations and mea culpas
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Principle 8: 

Transparency at all Levels
© 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
Can you work within these principles?
What about your distributed team?
Your Company?
Acceptable Hours of Overlap

Pervasive Communication

Assume Good Intent

Rhythm

Adaptability & Resilience

Pervasive Collaboration

Continuous Improvement (self
then team)

Transparency at All Levels
Some distributed teams 

can look odd
or they have shiny
new tools
Focus on principles to get your 

distributed team on the right course
Thanks! Questions?
more info at 

http://remotelyagile.info

http://markkilby.com 



@mkilby
You can also find me at:
http://virtualteamtalk.com
References 

(in order of mention)
- http://agilemanifesto.org
- Paul J. Zak - Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies – January 17, 2017 -
https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Factor-Creating-High-Performance-Companies/dp/0814437664
- Mark Kilby, Presentation - Do I Trust What I Can't See? Successful Distributed Teams - http://bit.ly/
distributedtrust
- DISC vs MBTI assessments. https://coachfederation.org/blog/index.php/8211/
- Strengthfinder 2.0 - https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/
- Compass exercise adapted for online teams from “A Simple Exercise to Strengthen Emotional Intelligence
in Teams” KQED Mindshift https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/22/a-simple-exercise-to-strengthen-
emotional-intelligence-in-teams/
- Play Prelude for forming virtual teams http://www.playprelude.com/
- Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams, 2nd ed. https://pragprog.com/book/liftoff/liftoff-second-
edition
- All remaining material (c) 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman - for more information see http://
remotelyagile.info and https://www.jrothman.com/
Photo credits (in order of appearance)
- http://agilemanifesto.org
- starry sky (title slide). Mitchell Hollander on unsplash.com
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:Airman_1st_Class_Matthew_Hickle_instructs_a_plane_to_land_while_
completing_a_simulation_on_the_Tower_Simulation_System.jpg - Public
Domain
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:ISS-47_Tim_Kopra_on_a_Laptop_in_the_Zvezda_Service_Module.jpg
- Public Domain
- https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_feature/public/
iss036e006695.jpg - Public Domain
- Satellite.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Navstar-2F.jpg - Public
Domain.
- Crab Nebula.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula#/media/
File:Crab_Nebula.jpg - Public Domain.
- The Pleiades, an open star cluster. Public Domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Lists_of_astronomical_objects#/media/File:Pleiades_large.jpg
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hohmann_transfer_orbit.png -
under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
- Space station concept - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/
arc-15570-1_160554main_jsc2006e43519_high.jpg - Public Domain
- Organize Your Distributed Team with Johanna Rothman - https://
www.collaborationsuperpowers.com/organize-distributed-team-
johanna-rothman/ - used with permission from Lisette Sutherland
- Uhura / Star Trek https://www.flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one/
12263923206 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
- Buddy System for -6 PLSS, Apollo 14 press kit. https://
www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a14/a14pk_buddy_system_en.jpg - Public
Domain.
- Gemini astronauts. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/
258507main_s66-44601_full.jpg - Public Domain.
- https://dribbble.com/shots/3167286-Users-Icon-Free-PSD
- https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/
STS-128_MCC_space_station_flight_control_room.jpg - Public
Domain. Star Trek cast at NASA Dryden - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/
default/files/thumbnails/image/ec76-5806.jpg - Public domain
- SpaceX CRS-8 first stage landing - https://www.flickr.com/photos/
spacex/25788014884/ - Public Domain.
- SpaceX JCSAT-14 Launch - https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacex/
26751237322/ - Public Domain.

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Agile distributed teams oxymoron or option

  • 1. AGILE DISTRIBUTED TEAMS: OXYMORON OR OPTION? MARK KILBY - JAN 2018 - DAWSVCON
  • 2. Community
 Group
 Support volunteer Mark’s distributed agile background … 2001 2003 2008 2012 2013 2016 2014 for hire consultingacrossindustries
  • 3. Measuring up to agile Satisfy the Customer Welcome Change Deliver Frequently Collaborate Daily Support & Trust Motivated Teams Promote 
 Face-to-Face Conversations Measured by Working Software Promote Sustainable Pace Promote Technical Excellence Maximize Through Simplicity Have 
 Self-Organized
 Teams Reflect & Adjust 
 Regularly ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ? Adapted from http://agilemanifesto.org
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6. more info at http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby Satellite 
 one or a few remote from team Nebula whole team dispersed Clusters team in a few locations
  • 7. HOW DO WE HELP PEOPLE 
 BE SUCCESSFUL ON 
 DISTRIBUTED TEAMS?
  • 9. PRINCIPLES 
 OVER 
 PRACTICES & TOOLS IN COLLABORATION WITH …
  • 10. Principle 1: 
 Acceptable Hours of Overlap We get tangled up on time zones but
 is that really the problem?
 Under what conditions can an distributed team collaborate in a agile manner? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 11. Distributed Collaboration Limits? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 12. Distributed Collaboration Limits? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 13. Distributed Collaboration Limits? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman Cockburn’s limit 45 ft / 13.75 m (length of US school bus) Allan’s limit
 90 ft / 30 m 
 (distance between 
 Baseball bases)
  • 14. Types of Teams © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman Geo-fences
  • 15. Types of Teams © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 16. Principle 2: 
 Pervasive Communication WHY before WHAT Delegate “How” - don’t tell the teams what to do Assume multiple communication / learning styles to absorb new information Broadcast over the right number of channels Consider “timing” across different channels © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 17. Principle 2: 
 Pervasive Communication © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 18. Facilitators need multiple tools and techniques Back Channel - always have all hailing frequencies open (chat); someone should always monitor Buddy System - each remote person has a “buddy” in the room to make sure they are connected to the team (paired communication) Co-Pilot – someone at another location that can help you coordinate the whole team (paired facilitation) more info at http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 19. Facilitators need multiple tools and techniques Back Channel - always have all hailing frequencies open (chat); someone should always monitor Buddy System - each remote person has a “buddy” in the room to make sure they are connected to the team (paired communication) Co-Pilot – someone at another location that can help you coordinate the whole team (paired facilitation) more info at http://remotelyagile.info / @mkilby Satellite Nebula Clusters © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman Nebula Satellite Clusters
  • 20. Principle 3: 
 Assume Good Intent Satir Interaction Model © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 21. Principle 3: 
 Assume Good Intent Trust is reciprocal and earned Trust has a financial impact It is difficult to trust unless… we can see demonstrations of 
 trustworthiness (competency, 
 honesty, reliability) 
 see http://bit.ly/distributedtrust we know their natural tendencies
  • 22. Learning natural tendencies within a team EaseofAdoption Time to Introduce easy more 
 difficult 1-2 hours week weeks or months DISC MBTI Strength Finder 2.0 Compass exercise (diy) © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 23. North: Acting - “Let’s do it;” Likes to act, try things, plunge in. South: Caring - likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting East: Speculating - likes to look at the big picture and the possibilities before acting West: Paying attention to detail - likes to know who, what, when, where and why before acting
  • 24. Learning natural tendencies within a team EaseofAdoption Time to Introduce easy more 
 difficult 1-2 hours week weeks or months DISC MBTI Strength Finder 2.0 Compass exercise (diy) Liftoffs (diy) Other benefits - shared vision, 
 working agreements? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 25. Principle 4: Rhythm Whether time-boxed (e.g., Scrum, XP) or in Flow (Kanban), all teams have a rhythm Encourage the team to decide their rhythms as they form Encourage the team to change their rhythm when retrospectives indicate they are not “keeping a beat” © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 26. Principle 4: Rhythm © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 27. Principle 5: 
 Adaptability & Resilience Can individuals quickly adjust to meet a goal? Can teams quickly adjust to meet a goal? Can the organization quickly adjust on goals or approach? How resilient is the individual / team / organization to hardship? Can the organization provide an “adaptive environment”? i.e., how much can team control their workspace? © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 28. Checking Adaptability & Resilience Example - Communication How many communications tools are available to the team? Which are primary and which are backups? Can anyone on the team start a new communication channel at any time? Example - Facilitation Can anyone on the team facilitate any ceremony? (backlog refinement, planning, standup, review, retrospective) © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 29. Promoting Adaptability & Resilience © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 30. Principle 6: 
 Pervasive Collaboration Deep Focus can be important, but … Pervasive Collaboration can help you explore problems and solutions faster © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 31. Principle 7: 
 Continuous Improvement Change leaders should model improvement first Then focus on the team Works with rhythm principle © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 32. Principle 7: 
 Continuous Improvement Examples: Personal - Improvement Days / Mentoring Team - Retrospective / Training / Meetups © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 33. Principle 8: 
 Transparency at all Levels Keep team spaces as open as possible “ask questions in public” get multiple solutions you may help educate others with your question public appreciations and mea culpas © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 34. Principle 8: 
 Transparency at all Levels © 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman
  • 35. Can you work within these principles? What about your distributed team? Your Company? Acceptable Hours of Overlap Pervasive Communication Assume Good Intent Rhythm Adaptability & Resilience Pervasive Collaboration Continuous Improvement (self then team) Transparency at All Levels
  • 36. Some distributed teams 
 can look odd
  • 37. or they have shiny new tools
  • 38. Focus on principles to get your 
 distributed team on the right course
  • 39. Thanks! Questions? more info at 
 http://remotelyagile.info
 http://markkilby.com 
 
 @mkilby You can also find me at: http://virtualteamtalk.com
  • 40. References 
 (in order of mention) - http://agilemanifesto.org - Paul J. Zak - Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies – January 17, 2017 - https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Factor-Creating-High-Performance-Companies/dp/0814437664 - Mark Kilby, Presentation - Do I Trust What I Can't See? Successful Distributed Teams - http://bit.ly/ distributedtrust - DISC vs MBTI assessments. https://coachfederation.org/blog/index.php/8211/ - Strengthfinder 2.0 - https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/ - Compass exercise adapted for online teams from “A Simple Exercise to Strengthen Emotional Intelligence in Teams” KQED Mindshift https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/22/a-simple-exercise-to-strengthen- emotional-intelligence-in-teams/ - Play Prelude for forming virtual teams http://www.playprelude.com/ - Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams, 2nd ed. https://pragprog.com/book/liftoff/liftoff-second- edition - All remaining material (c) 2018 Mark Kilby and Johanna Rothman - for more information see http:// remotelyagile.info and https://www.jrothman.com/
  • 41. Photo credits (in order of appearance) - http://agilemanifesto.org - starry sky (title slide). Mitchell Hollander on unsplash.com - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Airman_1st_Class_Matthew_Hickle_instructs_a_plane_to_land_while_ completing_a_simulation_on_the_Tower_Simulation_System.jpg - Public Domain - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:ISS-47_Tim_Kopra_on_a_Laptop_in_the_Zvezda_Service_Module.jpg - Public Domain - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_feature/public/ iss036e006695.jpg - Public Domain - Satellite.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Navstar-2F.jpg - Public Domain. - Crab Nebula.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula#/media/ File:Crab_Nebula.jpg - Public Domain. - The Pleiades, an open star cluster. Public Domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Lists_of_astronomical_objects#/media/File:Pleiades_large.jpg - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hohmann_transfer_orbit.png - under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. - Space station concept - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/ arc-15570-1_160554main_jsc2006e43519_high.jpg - Public Domain - Organize Your Distributed Team with Johanna Rothman - https:// www.collaborationsuperpowers.com/organize-distributed-team- johanna-rothman/ - used with permission from Lisette Sutherland - Uhura / Star Trek https://www.flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one/ 12263923206 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) - Buddy System for -6 PLSS, Apollo 14 press kit. https:// www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a14/a14pk_buddy_system_en.jpg - Public Domain. - Gemini astronauts. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/images/ 258507main_s66-44601_full.jpg - Public Domain. - https://dribbble.com/shots/3167286-Users-Icon-Free-PSD - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/ STS-128_MCC_space_station_flight_control_room.jpg - Public Domain. Star Trek cast at NASA Dryden - https://www.nasa.gov/sites/ default/files/thumbnails/image/ec76-5806.jpg - Public domain - SpaceX CRS-8 first stage landing - https://www.flickr.com/photos/ spacex/25788014884/ - Public Domain. - SpaceX JCSAT-14 Launch - https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacex/ 26751237322/ - Public Domain.