Thursday, July 24, 2008

Optimizing with a Remote Team Member

Last December, our manager moved back to India. He's still a VP and still writes code, although he's not our direct manager anymore.

Although he arranges his hours to accommodate us, working until almost midnight his time, there are still those hours where he's working and we're asleep. Sometimes he's left with no work to do, especially the first day of the sprint when we haven't planned our work yet.

This sprint we're trying an experiment. Our sprint starts Friday. On Wednesday morning, we had a meeting with the remote team member (let's call him "G"), our ScrumMaster, the product owner, our manager, and me (a tester, so I could get the feel for how much testing might be involved). The product owner had come up with three stories to "earmark" for G. We discussed the first story at some length, as it's rather complex and involves a business partner. We didn't discuss the other two stories. G felt the first story would keep him busy for a few days.

He proposed to write his task cards on his Friday morning, and go over them with the rest of the team in our sprint planning. (Now, for all of you who are down on task cards now, I can see why, but it's working for our team). We'll have to write the testing task cards then, too.

Today (Thursday), we had our "pre-planning" meeting. We went over the stories earmarked for G, plus the other stories that might be in this sprint. Tomorrow we will plan the sprint.

The three stories for G add up to almost as many points as the whole team does in a sprint. Now, G is a superman, for sure, but that seems kinda crazy. I have raised this issue. What if G stays busy for several days with Story 1, and other developers on the team free up? Do they have to keep their mitts off G's other stories?

But it's just an experiment. We'll see how it goes. Do you have a distributed team? How do you make sure everyone always has enough work? Please comment.


Chris McMahon said...

Hi Lisa, I had an article in March issue of Better Software called "Modern Distributed Teams" that might be of interest.

Also, Matt Heusser and I are working together on a distributed agile team. Our main collaboration tools are wikis, irc, voip, and email (and a few others that see less use).

Here's where we all are:,13.359375&spn=157.597221,360&z=1

Lisa said...

Thanks, Chris, I had not read that issue yet - way behind on all reading! Will read it now. I didn't know you and Matt worked together, cool.