From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams
From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams
From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams

Last updated on 2018-08-01

About the Book

Many people don’t believe that virtual teams, with distributed and dispersed members, can use agile approaches. However, most teams, even agile teams, have at least one remote team members.  Are we ready to say, “You can’t use agile approaches?” No.

As employees and consultants, we have a combined history of 55 years working with virtual teams. These teams use agile and lean principles and modify the practices to create success across distance and time zones.

Table of Contents

  • About this Beta Version
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. See the Future of Distributed Agile Teams
    • 1.1 Drowning in the Wave of the Future
    • 1.2 Define Your Why for a Distributed Approach
    • 1.3 Why Use Agile Approaches for Your Distributed Team
    • 1.4 Create a Culture of Experimentation
    • 1.5 Create a Mindset of Collaboration and Communication
    • 1.6 Principles over Practices
    • 1.7 Establish Acceptable Hours of Overlap
    • 1.8 Create Transparency at All Levels
    • 1.9 Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement With Experiments
    • 1.10 Practice Pervasive Communication at All Levels
    • 1.11 Traps of Distributed Agile Teams
    • 1.12 Now Try This
  • 2. Focus on Principles For Your Distributed Agile Teams
    • 2.1 Consider These Principles and Guidelines for Distributed Agile Teams
    • 2.2 Assume Good Intention
    • 2.3 Create a Project Rhythm
    • 2.4 Create Resilience with a Holistic Work/Home/Growth Culture
    • 2.5 Default to Collaborative Work, Not Solo Work
    • 2.6 Is a Distributed Agile Approach Right for You?
    • 2.7 Review the Agile and Lean Principles
    • 2.8 Now Try This
  • 3. Avoid Chaos with Insufficient Hours of Overlap
    • 3.1 Defining Working Across the Globe
    • 3.2 Manage and Survive Your Team’s Time Offsets
    • 3.3 Map the Value Stream to See the Work and the Risks
    • 3.4 Learn How to Work Together in One Location
    • 3.5 Time Shifts Can Help With No Hours of Overlap
    • 3.6 Consider Handoffs to Manage Few Hours of Overlap
    • 3.7 Insufficient Hours of Overlap Traps
    • 3.8 Now Try This
  • 4. Identify Your Distributed Agile Team Type
    • 4.1 Understand Teams
    • 4.2 Define Your Team Type
    • 4.3 Understand Boundaries of Collocation
    • 4.4 Characterize Key Attributes of Distributed and Dispersed Teams
    • 4.5 Visualize Your Distributed or Dispersed Team
    • 4.6 Programs Might Use Several Team Types
    • 4.7 Identify Your Team’s Focus
    • 4.8 Non-Collocated Teams Deserve Face-to-Face Time
    • 4.9 Make the Case for Distributed and Dispersed Teams
    • 4.10 Now Try This
  • 5. Communicate to Collaborate
    • 5.1 Understand the Drivers for Your Team’s Communication
    • 5.2 Verify Communication with Public Backchannels
    • 5.3 Use the Appropriate Communication Channels
    • 5.4 In-Person Communication is More Natural than Virtual Communication
    • 5.5 See Your Team’s Options for Rich and Natural Communication
    • 5.6 Shape Your Team’s Environment for Rich and Natural Communication
    • 5.7 Understand Your Team’s Communication Possibilities
    • 5.8 Language Matters
    • 5.9 See Your Team’s Communication Traps
    • 5.10 Now Try This
  • 6. Create Your Collaborative Team Workspace
    • 6.1 Select Iterations or Flow
    • 6.2 Help Your Team Visualize Their Work with a Board
    • 6.3 Help Your Team Create a Board That Fits Their Needs
    • 6.4 Distributed Teams Create Their Own Context
    • 6.5 Consider Your Team’s Tools Needs
    • 6.6 Create Psychological Safety in Your Team
    • 6.7 Now Try This
  • 7. Cultivate Your Distributed Team’s Agile Culture
    • 7.1 Understand Organizational Culture
    • 7.2 How Agile Approaches Change a Team’s Culture
    • 7.3 Survive a Top-Down Mandate to a Specific Agile Approach
    • 7.4 Choosing an Agile Culture With Your Existing Team
    • 7.5 Build and Maintain a Distributed Agile Culture
    • 7.6 Understand Your Team’s Decision Boundaries
    • 7.7 Help Your Agile Team Discover What Makes It Successful
    • 7.8 Consider a Copilot or Proxy Facilitator
    • 7.9 See Your Team’s Agile Culture Traps
    • 7.10 Now Try This
  • 8. Build Respect With Working Agreements
    • 8.1 Lack of Empathy Can Prevent a Team from Norming
    • 8.2 Distributed Team Members Require Empathy
    • 8.3 Asking for Help Can Build Respect
    • 8.4 Facilitate Decisions About Respectful Teamwork
    • 8.5 Identify the Team’s Values
    • 8.6 Create Working Agreements
    • 8.7 Blend Personal and Team Working Agreements
    • 8.8 Define the Project Charter
    • 8.9 Build Trust and Safety With Teamwork
    • 8.10 Build Respect Across the Organization
    • 8.11 Working With Humans
    • 8.12 Encourage Team Affiliation
    • 8.13 Build Respect Traps
    • 8.14 Now Try This
  • Appendix A: Our Toolset
    • Communication Tools
    • Book Generation Tools
    • Integrating Reviewer Feedback
    • Tools We Didn’t Use
    • How We Lived the Mindset
  • Appendix B: Compass Activity for Distributed Teams
    • Preparation
    • References
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • More from Johanna
  • More from Mark
  • Notes


The Book
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A 10-Pack of the book, From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams

Do you want to read this book with more people from your organization? Use this 10-Pack pricing. $10 for each book.

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About the Authors

Johanna Rothman
Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” provides frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams see problems and resolve risks and manage their product development.

Johanna has been managing projects and programs since the Neanderthal era. She is the current technical editor. She is the author of these books:

In addition, she is a contributor to:

Johanna writes the Pragmatic Manager, a monthly email newsletter. She writes two blogs on her site,, as well as a blog on She is a columnist about management for and is a columnist about agile project management for

Mark Kilby
Mark Kilby

Mark Kilby is an Agile coach who, for over two decades, has cultivated more distributed, dispersed, and virtual teams than colocated teams. Currently, Mark serves as an Agile coach with Sonatype, a distributed Agile software development company focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark led Agile transformations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. In his spare time, Mark also cultivates communities, such as Agile Orlando, Agile Florida,, and the Agile Alliance Community Group Support initiative. You can find out more, read my blog, or sign up for my newsletter at

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Practical Ink

Johanna Rothman's books on leanpub. Practical, frank, and often humorous tips you can put to work right now.

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