Agile Principle 6 – Face to Face Interaction

Posted on February 9, 2011 by



virtual team

Love them or hate them, virtual teams are a way of life

Face to face interaction provides for the most effective form of communication.  The sixth Agile Manifesto principle advocates face-to-face conversation.  A sticking point for adopting Agile is the dominance of virtual teams within an organization and among different organizations (in a vendor – customer relationship or within a supply chain for example).  Bringing virtual team members together to form a co-located team is recommended, yet often not feasible.  Travel costs, team size and relocation down-time are three barriers to co-location.  Decreased time-to-market (TTM) and development schedules are two drivers for co-location.

The following three things may help:

  1. If possible, locate teams together for the duration of the project. If the product is truly a “killer” application, extra money spent is rewarded by an earlier return on investment.  When teams are co-located don’t assume that daily interaction in person translates into instant understanding.  Also don’t assume that location in the same building means people will actually talk.  A parent or friend of a teenager has likely observed two or three friends texting, while in the same room or car together. I’ve seen team members resort to instant messenger or texting rather than poking their head around a neighbor’s cubicle.  It’s a cultural trend of millennial generation and younger.  Get used to it. Funny stuff if you think about it.  Brings to my mind explaining what a physical file cabinet could be used for to a group of programmers a few years ago.  I shared with them that a file drawer is much like a database with each file folder a record and contents in that folder data.  It was the flip side of so many early database text examples (recall the often cited “student database” example)
  2. If locating the teams together is not possible for the entire duration of the project, bring team member together for intervals. Kick-off and significant milestones are two occasions where flying team members in for a few to several days provides some extra deposits in the communication bucket.
  3. If the team(s) must be 100% virtual for the entire project’s duration, empower that team with the best tools. Provide for media richness.  Ensure conference calls are aided with webinar and story board sharing.   Establish consistent communication protocols and behavior.

Virtual teams do not have to be an Agile show stopper, rather something that takes some planning to accommodate.

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

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