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6 years ago

Face to Face – United We Stand

We’re all tied together by things we do. Projects we work on, conferences we go to as a whole team, even bugs we fix together, problems we solve together. Insights we share together.

Some people call it team spirit. Some people call it good collaboration. In any case, this is the light of live communication and talk between people.  My deepest belief after all is that no matter how sophisticated telecom stuff gets our days, there’s nothing more valuable – and ROI-generating as well – as the real talk.

I was perplexed the other day as I saw the phrase  – “we’re trying to maximize our face time with them” – this was said about some guys from an off-site location visiting the main office. My first thought was – so the rest of the time they work  is their a** time? As obviously software guys spend most of their time sitting on their derrier?? Though of course it’s worth a praise that after all they’re still trying to maximize the face time..

As hype is the statement that with globalization you could get the best software developers out of anywhere in the world, as eternal is the truth that to produce people need to REALLY collaborate. This goes for software, for any production.  So it’s not about picking up people as vegetables on the market – even if it’s a huge market. People are more than vegetables. They need live communication to feel alive, to collaborate and to be productive (for those who want to count figures, you can sit down now and compare the monetary value of pure programming skills  – with no communication skills at all).

I’m not saying that we should all go local in our quest for best products and profits. But what I really see is that people are squeezing their way to follow some of agile communication practices using telecom. As a proof, look at hot discussions at LinkedIn agile groups, and Jean Tabaka’s observations on the reasons of agile adoption failure.

Blasphemy to the religion of remote/distributed teams – but the picture is slowly starting to get clear for me:  it really takes good skills to balance the equilibrium of infrastructure and management to activate collaborative agile work in remote teams. Meaning 5 here, 7 there, 6 elsewhere – as one team.

Is it possible to trust without seeing each other? I doubt there’re teams who are absolutely OK with remote customers/product owners etc. I even suspect that waterfall can be the best solution for remote teams-customers that haven’t developed enough trust to each other. If anyone has real-life stories to prove that I’m wrong, speak up.

  • Nadia

    I agree that waterfall/ iterative development is still the best solution for huge distributed teams.
    However, time to time I wish I worked in distributed team, when too much face to face communication, disputes happen and distance is too short. I realized that it might be exhausting to see, listen and hear, and stay nice with the all team every day.

  • Dru

    There should be no many disputes to happen in united team, but I understand that some persons could really annoy you. If the other people feel same, it’s subject to get rid of that person.

  • Robert Dempsey

    Great post Olga. I agree that nothing builds trust better than ongoing face-to-face communication. That is not to say though, that it can't be done. I built the capability to be 100% virtual into my company, and it has been quite successful for a number of years. All of our team members worked from home or wherever they wanted to, whether they are here in the U.S. or abroad. We would “get together” in person every once in a while, but mainly communicated via Skype, phone, IM, email, or project management app. Skype was always preferred as you could do face-to-face.

    Over the years we've built up a client base without ever meeting our clients in person. This always astounded me that we could do this. It worked for U.S. and foreign clients, and worked well. Again, we would use Skype when possible. I'm happy that I am now able to travel and finally meet many of our clients in person, which is working to strengthen the relationships we have in place.

    I've found that results speak for themselves, and help to build a great amount of trust. Being an Agile shop, we deliver value for our clients every week or two. Continuously delivering value can help build trust with clients, and internally, the team still relies on each other and sees that the other team mates are delivering, thus building more trust.

    This doesn't always work with everyone though. I've been fortunate to have found people that are highly self-motivated, self-managing, and don't need to someone looking over their shoulder to ensure that they are doing their jobs. Commits and delivery tell me that anyhow.

    Thanks again for the great post. I hope more people share their experiences.

  • annazelenskaya

    Our experience shows, that face-to face visits of off-site team are most useful in two cases – to shorten the time for team to work into the new project, and to improve the communication for large teams (more than 10 developers). In cases of small teams, or individual developers who work under customer's direct control, I wouldn't say that on-site visits are of such an importance

  • Karinnorstrom

    Hi, I just googled my father’s name, and this picture showed up.  Just wondering where you got this picture from? and did you attain it with permission?  He recently passed away and this is a very important picture for our family/ I would like an answer please.

  • Michael Dubakov

    I’ve removed the picture. Sorry for this, I am not sure how Olga found and added it.

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