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

Collaborate to Deliver

About the Book

Distributed agile teams have a terrible reputation. They don’t deliver “on time,” and too often, they don’t deliver what the customer needs. However, most agile teams, have at least one remote team member. And, agile approaches are here to stay.  

Don’t blindly apply agile practices designed for collocated teams. Instead, learn to use three mindset shifts and the agile and lean principles to create your successful distributed agile team. Use the tips and traps to help your team succeed.

Leave the chaos of virtual teams behind. See how to help your distributed team succeed.

About the Authors

Johanna Rothman
Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams do reasonable things that work. Equipped with that knowledge, they can then decide how to adapt their product development.

With her trademark practicality and humor, Johanna is the author of 18 books and hundreds of articles. Find the Pragmatic Manager, a monthly email newsletter, and her blogs at and

She is the author of these books:

In addition, she is a contributor to:

For fiction:

Johanna Rothman

Episode 3

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


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  • English

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Table of Contents

  • Praise Quotes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Distributed Agile Teams Are Here to Stay
    • 1.1 Understand Agile Teams
    • 1.2 Why Distributed Teams?
    • 1.3 Agile Approaches Focus Distributed Teams
    • 1.4 Create a Culture of Experimentation
    • 1.5 Shift to a Mindset of Collaboration
    • 1.6 Review the Agile and Lean Principles
    • 1.7 Is a Distributed Agile Approach Right for You?
    • 1.8 When Agile Approaches Are Not Right for You
    • 1.9 See Traps That Prevent Successful Distributed Agile Teams
    • 1.10 Now Try This
  • 2. Focus on Principles to Support Your Distributed Agile Teams
    • 2.1 Establish Acceptable Hours of Overlap
    • 2.2 Create Transparency at All Levels
    • 2.3 Cultivate Continuous Improvement With Experiments
    • 2.4 Practice Pervasive Communication at All Levels
    • 2.5 Assume Good Intention
    • 2.6 Create a Project Rhythm
    • 2.7 Create Resilience with a Holistic Culture
    • 2.8 Default to Collaborative Work
    • 2.9 Now Try This
  • 3. Avoid Chaos with Insufficient Hours of Overlap
    • 3.1 Defining Working Across the Globe
    • 3.2 Map the Value Stream to Visualize Cycle Time
    • 3.3 See the Effects of Hours of Overlap on Cycle Time
    • 3.4 Manage and Survive Your Team’s Large Time Offsets
    • 3.5 Consider Handoffs
    • 3.6 Insufficient Hours of Overlap Traps
    • 3.7 Now Try This
  • 4. Identify Your Distributed Agile Team Type
    • 4.1 Consider Your Team Size
    • 4.2 Encourage Team Affiliation to Improve Collaboration
    • 4.3 Understand Boundaries of Collocation
    • 4.4 Define Your Team Type
    • 4.5 See Your Team Type Traps
    • 4.6 Now Try This
  • 5. Communicate to Collaborate
    • 5.1 Create Psychological Safety in Your Team
    • 5.2 Use the Appropriate Communication Channels
    • 5.3 See Your Team’s Communication Options
    • 5.4 Build Consensus for Team Communication Preferences
    • 5.5 Enhance Discussions with Dedicated Backchannels
    • 5.6 Language Matters
    • 5.7 See Your Team’s Communication Traps
    • 5.8 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 Identify Your Team’s Focus
    • 6.5 Distributed Teams Create Their Own Context
    • 6.6 Consider Your Team’s Tools Needs
    • 6.7 See Your Workspace Traps
    • 6.8 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 Create an Agile Culture With Your Existing Team
    • 7.4 Build and Maintain Your Team’s Agile Culture
    • 7.5 Understand Your Team’s Decision Boundaries
    • 7.6 Enable a Collaborative Distributed Culture with Helper Roles
    • 7.7 See Your Team’s Agile Culture Traps
    • 7.8 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 Consider These Tactics to Build Teamwork
    • 8.10 Build Respect Across the Organization
    • 8.11 Work With Humans Requires Empathy
    • 8.12 See Your Respect Traps
    • 8.13 Now Try This
  • 9. Adapt Practices for Distributed Agile Teams
    • 9.1 Identify the Principles Behind Your Potential Agile Practices
    • 9.2 Reflect Often as a Team
    • 9.3 Create the Team’s Rhythm
    • 9.4 Consider Which Meetings You Need and When
    • 9.5 See Your Agile Practice Traps
    • 9.6 Now Try This
  • 10. Integrate New People Into Your Distributed Agile Team
    • 10.1 Focus on Interpersonal Skills
    • 10.2 Recruiting People For Your Distributed Agile Team
    • 10.3 Define Your Hiring Process
    • 10.4 Use a Buddy System to Integrate New People
    • 10.5 Plan Time to Integrate People
    • 10.6 Scale Your Distributed Teams
    • 10.7 Integrating People Traps
    • 10.8 Now Try This
  • 11. Lead Your Distributed Agile Teams to Success
    • 11.1 Cultivate Affinity Between People and Teams
    • 11.2 Create an Environment to Amplify Distributed Agile Teamwork
    • 11.3 How Leaders Can Show Their Agile Mindset
    • 11.4 Build Your Distributed Agile Management Skills
    • 11.5 Set a New Direction
    • 11.6 Focus on “Better” When Scaling Distributed Agile Teams
    • 11.7 Start With a Distributed Agile Management Culture
    • 11.8 Set the Path for Your Distributed Agile Journey
    • 11.9 Now Try This
  • Appendix A: Our Toolset
    • Communication and Writing Tools
    • Book Generation Tools
    • Integrating Reviewer Feedback
    • Tools We Didn’t Use
    • How We Lived the Mindset
    • Would We Do It Again
  • Appendix B: Compass Activity for Distributed Teams
    • Prepare for the Compass Activity
    • Facilitate the Compass Activity
    • Consider These Other Facilitation Tips
    • References
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • More from Johanna
  • More from Mark
  • Notes

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