ProjectsatWork has published a study called Distributed Agile Teams: Achieving the Benefits. The report was put together by Elizabeth Harrin (@PM4Girls), who is the author of the website A Girls Guide to Project Management. The results of the research cover a lot of ground with respect to what makes distributed Agile projects work and what can contribute to their failure. The report is very insightful and definitely worth the time it takes to read. While some of the findings may seem like common sense, knowledge workers in the IT space (myself definitely included) seem to possess a remarkable capacity for periodic loss of grip to that tether.
My favorite part comes at the very end during the summary of recommendations. Number One on the list is:
Don’t act like your project is co-located – pay the tax for distribution.
This is one of the most simple things that so many of us forget when we are working at a distance. I believe this applies whether you are working down the hall from someone, or across the globe… there is a price that has to be paid when you are not sitting in the same room. With the transparency that Agile offers, this tax becomes far more obvious. There is no doubt that distributed teams provide a number of benefits, but those benefits come at a cost. The reason (IMHO) so many people struggle so much with distributed is that they keep thinking that the ride is free … which it theoretically could be… unless you actually want it to work.