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5 Easy Tips to Deal with Conflicts Within Distributed Agile Teams

Randy RayessRandy Rayess

After being a buzzword for years, Agile has now become the go-to development methodology for most entrepreneurs. However, if your development team is remote, working on agile is a challenge. In this article, we highlight some conflicts which arise while you are working with distributed agile teams. Let’s identify these issues and understand how you can deal with them.

  1. Trust and Vision Conflicts: When your team is sitting miles away from you, people issues are bound to arise. The foremost challenge is to create an environment of trust. You meet your in-house team everyday and thus they can relate to the company values better and understand you as a person. But the remote team rarely gets to see you, so winning their faith and driving them towards a common vision requires escalated efforts. The challenge is to make them feel like a part of the bigger team.

             How Can You Deal with It?

    • Communicate regularly and effectively. Having face-to-face interactions helps. If you meet them personally, say once or twice a year, it works wonders in fostering the connection between you and your team. Building socialization platforms and creating opportunities for informal conversations is also a good idea. Team building sessions also help. Gaming sessions and co-worker trivia can come in handy when establishing a better relationship with your remote team.

      2.Time Zone and Cultural Conflicts: Distributed teams come with cultural, tone and body language differences. Since your team is sitting in a different country and time zone, you need to acknowledge their culture and local ethnicity. They speak a different language, follow different holiday schedule and follow different religious beliefs. You need to take all of these into consideration while working with people sitting in different continents. As for the time zone, if you are available at 4 PM EST, you can’t expect your team, say in Bulgaria, to be available at the same time as it is 11 PM their time! This difference also makes it difficult to address roadblocks or answer questions when they come up.

      How Can You Deal with It?

    • Make everyone on the team aware of the time zone differences. This will allow them to plan accordingly. Secondly, promote end-of-day status notes and developer-to-developer handshake. This addresses the timezone challenge. If something requires your feedback, end-of-day notes will make sure the time difference doesn’t impact the pace of work. Developer handshake means the teams will share their check-in status and provide an update on the code.

  1. Collaboration Conflicts: Agile requires extensive  communication, which is difficult with remote teams. Since distributed teams do not get enough face-time, their understanding gets affected. Real time collaboration is also difficult, resulting in growing in-team conflicts. Besides, synchronizing remote team with the local team/stakeholders/clients is an inevitable challenge. You can’t rely on typical storyboard method to show project status as your team sits miles away.

    How Can You Deal with It?

    “We almost doubled amount and frequency of communication in comparison to onsite teams; we traveled to each other not only for kick-offs or common sessions, but also to sit down and work in the same room for some time too”, says Vladimir, Consultant-Trainer in the same discussion

  1. Space Layout Conflicts: Space layout is an integral element of collocated agile team, but it equally impacts distributed teams as well. Since everyone associated with the project is not in the same space, they have to work towards communicating rather than focusing on the project. For example, when the team is remote, the possibility of everyone coming together in one room and brainstorming is next to impossible. In this case, team members become mere observers.

    How Can You Deal with It?

  1. Project Delivery Conflicts: You may put in your best efforts to explain an interface to your team, it is hard to explain to distributed teams the logic of the interface. Documenting assumptions related to implementation, and expecting the team to function in an agile manner, is a rare possibility. Besides, its not easy to read complicated design specifications. This leads to a risk of having multiple implementations of the requirements.

    How Can You Deal with It?

People and communication being the most important pillars of any project, need to be addressed from the beginning. The above expert suggestions can help you deal with most of the issues you face while working with distributed agile teams.

Have you faced some similar conflicts while dealing with distributed agile teams? How did you cope with the situation? Please do let us know about the experience in the comments section below.

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CoFounder at VenturePact Passionate about software, marketplace startups & remote work. Previously at SilverLake Partners, Ampush and Wharton.