Distributed & Local: Getting the Best of Both Worlds

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Distributed & Local: Getting the Best of Both Worlds
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Our company is traditional in many ways, one of which being the need to come into the office each day. Our team of software developers bucks that trend, spreading across 6 states and 4 countries. Dev teams consider themselves "Remote First", while DevOps and Application Support are "Local First." Each has adopted tools, habits, and practices to maximize their configuration. Each style has learned valuable lessons from the other. This presentation is about how our teams have evolved: the tools, the compromises, the wins and losses, and how we successfully blend Distributed and Concentrated teams.
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teeth and so on and when you talk to you about the local and remote teams and I hope is that we're was in the last part as well the Austin talk was wasn't they really great so that I'm not cover some the same things and we'll differently from my perspective but we are really willing to listen to Glenn real tell Abdullah experience as well so my specific for this is looking a hybrids were we have a team members were local and the members were remote and how to get the best of combining those 2 styles
source-target Whipple I would raise your hand if you today are primarily someone who works locally in office have not mean that every single day but most of the time you're in an office with a rescue team but then in half and how many of you are currently remote the other half make sense how many of you would like to do the other at so that's what we focus on is solely bands why you might choose 1 versus the other and I think there's a lot of value each 1 and I've done both and I enjoy both of them there's a lot to look at the so introduction but a little about me 1st that money has been like I have been doing really for 10 years the open source for 20 a lot of my appreciation for remote work comes from open source where you know when you need an open source ERP most the time it's remote anyway that your collaborators or in other parts of the world previously found a company called modeling over a software consultancy were a remote 1st Company from day 1 and about 12 people not a huge organization but definitely learned a lot from that experience today and Vice-President business technology for power modeling so it's much larger organization and about 2 thousand people in the
company 51 in the technology department is 7 scrum teams 6 states for countries and ends really about half and half when it comes to local versus around or local vs. and then adding LS our stress this is my experience you know it it comes from what we've done in the past most work well for us I would say that everything you here today has come from something we've learned some the hasn't worked and I'm sure that some of the things we do today we will find better ways due tomorrow and that's OK that's just from the process the so a star with little back background what
kind of teams exist where were we talking about topromote teams and I emphasize that when I say team I'm really thinking of a fairly small unit and thinking of 3 or 5 people not the entire department say but the actual people that you depend on day-to-day and because people were if they're not around you in the blocked right so 1st all local teams that's a pretty easy 1 right people in the same building you're not really in the same building but in the same floor and in the same room you have a reading that people who were to separated by as little as 1 4 start to lose some of the benefits of being a local team right in that the space interaction is lost and when you have to go out of your way to interact with them so local teams were focused on people who were physically co-located together preferably in the same room the the 1 is
rotations again pretty intuitive people who were spread out in many different locations and sometimes it'll be home sometimes it'll be in a coffee shop sometimes it'll be a coworking space we actually of 1 guy a team who for some reason just loves coffee shops will you'll spend the entire morning a coffee shop and I can be with noise that works for him the and is is the time that the type which are mixed teams so this is the type of team we have uh most of the people on 1 physical location and then 1 person is kind of an outlier this is the this is anti-pattern I I don't really wanna talk about much other than to say I strongly advise you don't do it this can lead to isolation right this can lead to this 1 person being left out of conversations can lead to people not having the same level of understanding about what's going on within the business what's going on within the team was going on within the cell for being that are developed and certain other spent the same topic is we have 1 team that is split into 2 parts to have a part a team in 1 location progeny other again underperforming collects will be small communication patterns reference to come was largely right when people are communicating together the organization developed at 1 so again I don't recommend this diluted at so and this say something that maybe controversial maybe you agree with me as as the holder pitchforks until the end and I'll explain why I think this that the emperor strongly that local teams with the most effective and most efficient way to do to develop suffer I don't think and I I think that all else being equal you can control over everything else having everybody in the same room is the fastest way to and to deliver what you want and I say this myself as a hobby been place my half my time on site half my time working from a state is someone who found in business that was wrote 1st and successfully rover so very happy with that company and I say this is a manager of 3 teams and 1 local teams and is better for communication is therefore Corollary and therefore brainstoring and for about resolving issues and even scrum teachers we we follow from pre religiously and big thing is is get your team's co-located rights in Disney saying is and the wisdom of being the taught so then why why why even talk retained if locals clearly the way to go why would this even the conversation as because we want a lot as 1 of your display hands sorry there happy you are doing and know the chunk of you or I would like to swap whatever you're doing you so this is really great StackOverflow article rather survey and it came up with 53 per cent of people looking for jobs what some kind of a real option is a is a top priority in seeking a new position which means if you're if you're trying to hire these people this is a major competitive advantage you if you have a remote options in your employment then you have I the attention of a very large number of job-seekers right away the initially 11 % remote workers report higher job satisfaction or I should say the judge subsections lamps are higher among people of local or remote options versus a purely local so is not just bad acquisition it's also about retaining so the the that you have keeping them happy happiness is correlated with productivity and with longevity within the organization this is a big deal right and don't touch on something I think that that Glenn Maria said very well which is that not every position can be remote and within our organization we call that a few specific types of positions that we don't that we will not consider remote Africans the 2 they're kind of obvious are applications support infrastructure support the people that that day-to-day have to interact with some of the end users and we self-hosted so we have our own physical infrastructure we have a team demands that infrastructure we want them local in case something breaks they can unplait replied it is necessary and the 3rd 1 which is a bit of a pressure shift for us is Junior development teams so we actually we did that the 1st time for us to experiment year ago we put together a team of developers who were junior and carried with them and then to to to bring them up to speed we did as a remote team and was successful I say that the people who went through that program all with the company still today i and they're very the absolute value members of a team will we found was it was harder to support them and then for them in the ways they deserve it was harder to establish the canon communication to jump over the whiteboard explains in a complex process and that it would be if they were local so it going for we started saying all junior developers want put them at headquarters where they can be mentored with and other team members in be given that the detention is necessary there so what are the benefits the benefits of
enabling teams to be wrote muster with benefits to employers 1st obviously it's a broader applicable if you're looking in 1 location the best-case scenario you're kind of saying give me the best personal in 50 miles that's just a small pool to begin with no matter where you are if you go on up and say the best person plus or minus 3 hours so we have a lot many uh lot more options to choose from and ultimately we really wanna say is the best person for the job so as your organization continues to expand and as you can start to form teams in multiple locations as you can start to organize teams around locations you not just looking at the 1 geographic a 1 times and you go actually look around the entire world this is a mental manages a has advantages like taking better advantage of referrals so the people in your team are going to offer their friends hopefully hopefully if you're if you're a place that they want to work of with a friends also won't work there as well and if those friends happen to not be in your city you might not have the the opportunity to work them it definitely improves things like time to hire so when we as we grew and we had to grow doubled in size twice of the last 2 years this will of w each year and only we could do that was looking remotely we just couldn't get you have a big enough stream of candidates looking only locally so that was a major shift for us but also increase the opportunities for diversity but I think that the last talk dimension as well you know if if you're a mother with a newborn child and you don't want to work can easily get to the office and that's the better limiting factor right the I when I was when I was a single father my daughter would come home from school at 3 30 and I can be home to be there with her there was a big deal for me right that and that is that if I was tied in office I would have to drive home to do such a thing that is not feasible right because it'll work mom I could be there for those those of being a benefit for me so the solid that is the employees well and surviving home when my daughter home from school is more than just that it's also a choice of lifestyle for myself I like living in the city I like being in an urban area I like I'm not having to have a car I can walk to shops and restaurants that's that's all you like for me very good friend of mine and give 5 kids has by kids the the lives of at about 2 hours away from the office 2 2 hours 1 way to drive from his house to the office at the time the company work 10 years ago and they would do not have a mode options wasn't 1 the tables at every day he would drive 2 hours in the office you work for that and you drive 2 hours on to 4 hours of his day by the time you get to the office you or even up for at least 2 . 3 hours is tired from the drive and he was stressed dealing traffic and even at work sometimes you be trying to figure out how to make is that new better trying to find just the right time believed to a traffic or started looking at train schedules to try to figure out is another way to get the office no doubt that impact is productivity by there's no way you can be as effective when year Spain aperture energy getting yourself physically to a location so living in when we choose and be able to do so remotely gives you the flexibility of the option of picking the lifestyle that's right for you and me will have a job that that is right for you as well so 1 size does not fit all I'm and their mutual benefits things things that benefit both the employer and the company life is not static point we can count on is that it will change what has actually happened with a lot of our team members is other life situations have changed and they needed to move so when my fear examples is a very fine line he was living in the UK he got married to a Brazilian the and they want to live in Brazil if his employment had been tied his physical location that we would not have been able to keep them within the organization he's he's a very strong developer so that was for intro psych having him be a part of a rization why he still lives to live the life you want to and and a lot of his life to evolve in the way he wanted to wall that that's that's important that gives a gives him the ability to transition is like with uh while retaining the stability of his employment in it gives us the longevity of someone who's abide team member Sony knows and how we've already invested teaching about the organization those are those are things that that that both sides pretty well so location independence adds longevity to employment which is a win for both sides are at the origin
is misprized right remote so easy I worry about a pencil there and give you the 3 most important bullet points the lower work various death number 1 communication this process here this is the biggest challenge to what may not necessary surprises number 2 is also communication and number 3 is occasion right now the
i j cation Java 1 my favorite time zones love loves timezones had attendance time zones are were the biggest factor in figure out how and where to because while we know optically care where you would we do care that you have the ability to communicate with your we do care that you can support each other you would you can you can ask the questions and get answers in and get on so we have a rule of thumb the teams a team should not spread more than 3 hours total not plus and minus 3 hours 3 hours to write so we try to group things in these circles are not exactly represented but the point is that we try to group genes such that no 1 is more than 4 so as 3 Wilson team that is a nice of overlapped the work day now you'll notice that some of those circles are decidedly longer than 3 hours and I as I mentioned earlier when the benefits of smaller teams is you can your teams in such a way that the teams themselves are within that we are all but at cross-organizational again multiple teams and you can you can spread the work around that way that doesn't work the it is entitled to be able to
understand things deeply not too superficially that truly understand worker during my reading I love this quote the foreground shot the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that has taken place see my spend abundant time trying to explain what we're building in why and then how you do it you may or may not have actually heard I think this is 1 the reasons we love whiteboards is when you get draw something a picture worth a thousand words make it so easy to explain relatively complex concept and you cannot not like that promise that only works of breaking your mouth right you can just what would what I have tried lots of online whiteboarding tools and they they all are kind of disappointing in 1 way or another and but you have to replace somehow so we we mean a lot on video conferencing we rely on screen stranger is huge and code reviews are a big deal the and then my my CEOs favorite flow charts don't be afraid of chart this this maybe it took me 15 minutes but together there's no color is not re pretty it's a bunch a box is a couple years old attacks but it it really conveys very quickly some some things refine it done and so this this has become part of our culture or a marine trying encourage more at the point here isn't to burden you with documentation the point here is to communicate as clearly as you would on a whiteboard you start to build that your culture you can partially solved this problem of the occupations out of 3 perceptions distractions Ernest over if I can't seem that the desk had 1 of the working through problem right and dealt with this yeah the I'm going to your boss is everywhere there's a flip side is as a remote employee it my team is always multitasking out know she's taking it seriously a lot our communication happens to be a conference video conference for most the state means working laptops so if I'm
speaking with some of my team and were having great conversation is really tempting really tempting just at all tab
put me now as something answer quickens the message that is so destructive it's so destructive the conversations have the worse when you do in a in a stand up a retro industry not intentional teams has something of the fight it takes conscious effort as it doesn't come automatically developed get but that way I and you need to make sure that I to back to the 1st way about them if I can't see the team had another working you need to also make sure you practically manage up top-tier surprise let letters going on for us a lot of that comes through dealing with tools like little tracker encoder use a lot of it has to do with a retrospectives and see it stand ups and spread playing the opportunities to make it within the team but what's going on but also to think about progress so people know what's happening not talking more than just a 2nd sets can overview of
some of the benefits and challenges I would be really specific and talk about how we do this the next few slides are going to talk about what we do have power to have to work through these challenges we have senators valuable stars work local remote to understand there are business realities of acquiring retaining the people that we want to and and retaining power has what of happiness to you find a way to get the best of both the 1st structure small teams 3 5 people letters is that is not a big deal for us is keeping a small if if the teams received today we don't hesitate to split it apart into interest margins and it also consistent teams I'm a believer in not trying to mix local wrote you can put 2 people in 1 location on the same team but if you do it they need act as if the remote need to be on video conferences on their own computers so they have the same parity at the communication layer with everyone else 19 citizens feel like there's just just 2 people and the rest of the the found that 1 but and then we'll process scrum as a said for a big believer in Scrum and there's this sort of related counts the shoe ha re which is where the beginning you do it exactly like the book says and I will probably that point probably most of what we do is do your best to stick to the principles of exactly as written without too much variation the next step for that is hot which is what we understand the principles we can start to bend the rules were necessary to adapt to your situation and there's a mastery level which is where you completely understand everything in why the rule exists in the 1st place and you can break the rules what because the rules longer exists for like a matrix new flexes arms walls and on to that so for us that process as daily standards retrospectives are really critical parts for managing the communication showing the communications routines stand if nothing else give you an opportunity every day to make sure you communicate with everyone at it's really the new right for all know and just focus on simple request so easy to to get into the editor push the co-movement annexing not even talk to anybody the standards at least if nothing else will give you a chance once a day to to communicate in respect to the Web as well I will give you can early warning system if things are going great great retrospectives and bring up the surface this is again another way to check point communications make sure they're happening regularly course she have to emphasize remote friendly communication we do a lot with code reviews every single that goes to production has had a code review on the 3 criteria required to ship obviously text chat log people slack we have tool internally called connect that's the same concept it's critical not only because it facilitates communication within our development team but also the larger company anyone can talk to anyone in time that's critical videoconferencing screen-sharing on body given examples that but and again the without the political whiteboard being least look the same thing and talk about it makes a big difference and facilitating communication and then as I said diagrams but diagrams and in culture face-to-face meetings it is my goal and to at least once every 90 days spent some time based space with everyone on 1 of my just to have that personal which ship with them we also luncheon learns and I get a credit to to deal with lines and probably more time for our now but she did a lot to make one's lines happen for should reach out with that and so that has been not only helpful for onboarding in bringing people in and organization saucepan really helpful in some just getting people talking across teams we as we emphasize small teams as we grow we end up adding more teams they don't necessarily communicate as much as they would otherwise a luncheon learned a great way to get a larger group together and then choose only a station was to copy data having some the cost media so that we do about right so we've talked about how we're doing it on a talk about 1 more topic which is how we optimize with different styles will talk 1st about optimizing for local teams for the teams that we have decided will be local whether their development or support the word OPS the few things we can do to make them more productive to maximize the benefits they have 1st we built a
headquarters that has a lot of collaboration space I mean a lot of probably at least within the our departments sort of area the building at least half maybe more than half of the spaces dedicated toward collaborative areas lots of white words and lots of tables we you can pull up there's power to plug there are some and others will puzzle piece chairs are the sorta like bean bags but sort of not on this it's just a more casual space we can you can discuss things and we use a space not only for
internal conversation and I think this is really important we use it to also talk the business these 2 rather serious looking fellows are from our time acquisition apartment and were in the process of building some software to help them Mason the work they're doing this is then coming in to our area and speaking with uh began Richardson application support guarantees explaining some of the features were delivering in some of the bugs were addressed this is it this is communication not only for work within the team within the Department also making out the business so is a real danger so if you have entirely protein and we can see that stuff just happens nobody knows about it this is part of our effort to make sure that the business knows what we're up to and that they can appreciate and understand what we're prioritizing y and on the same kind of
vain and actually even more out and we have this this area called the knowledge those which is very much model on the apple and knowledge or concept we have this area which is outside is a very public space a holy were a lot of people walk by anyone who was a technical issue of any kind can walk up and ask questions you know I need help with a mouse printer and where have trouble the application and again this is for Republic face on what we're doing and why and also if you get if you do this right if you build a kind of connections with the rest the business what it does is it lowers resistance I don't know of dimension as early on but the the business plan is home a modeling the comparing is in many ways traditional very local very much and people from the office he saw people states that's because they actually were seats and were little difference not only do not wear suits was just aren't even there so we need to manage that need to let them know that were working with them we got to back and this kind of reaches a big part of so resistance to enabling remote work the pilot is developers sometimes you have to
get away from the noise so we have these little pods we build the 12 of the the people who are in local they become their office and for the people who a remote whenever the headquarters they can use them as office space the quiet and they're they're away from the noise and then the colorful lights besides looking really awesome this picture have purpose if if the light is red it means you're busy it on disturbed and these we've known my later if screening commoners and have a conversation the right that's would do for local what we do
for remote or distributed teams Daily
setups which we had but 1 again that is a big a big part of how we manage the communication we how we keep the communication good and we don't have to take them to seriously there showing them well so as as thing on the same but this is this is an interesting team this team has since been reorganized as they are now entirely local but at the time this this picture was taken 3 other people were physically in the same location and 2 of them were in remote locations but the reason I show this is this is a good example getting everybody on the same playing field it is everybody's at their own workstation on their own computer talking and communicating as peers so the guy in the bottom left and the guy in the bottom center and the guy in the top right are of roughly 10 the Department of the in their cubes but whatever team occasion they would they would a level playing field to to ensure that the I thought about getting face-to-face as a
way of enabling wrote communication and this is a big part as we do it's not just the work we do a lot of work and when we do this 3 times year recall create we bring all the developers all remote workers to headquarters we bring in the application supporting that they work with bring in the infrastructure teams they work with and we find that it's what happened exactly how to describe it's this we we take Goals in products that are hard to get to the normal cycle development and sometimes the bigger picture architectural things sometimes called feature that we just couldn't work in the normal flow and will the building will spend a week building what's cool about this and by the way not something that we necessarily planned but was a beautiful kind of emergence emergent behavior was at the team's self and they did it in different configurations in their daily their daily teens so when they are in the field maybe you have this history here but when they actually came to this 1 session Headquarters they they picked completely from people who work with this beautiful for for the kind of a personal connection that are necessary to to both growing also to get questions answered the on your team the course is not just work at social to
right so we we have a structured and unstructured time where people can and this is we're doing some have weird the game show thing but so that's that's what structure and we then go karting almost killed somebody but today is right and this important right these these things are harder doing your notice hard to to build those this social factions in the trust that comes from giving off possibly right so in summary the 3 things I would say when you have a
local team you optimize this this these are actions that your core strength right you got people there you ones that give them as many opportunities to to communicate with very high bandwidth with internally and externally so if you wanna develop the tools and practices are necessary to make remote work successful and this this doesn't happen automatically it takes conscious thought and takes evolution which the 3rd point don't accept status quo with in today's is great but there's always something even better and retrospectives are and then create big parts for us for analyzing the process of finding ways finals working fine what's not and finding what the better I wanted you to links for further reading on a thank Martin
Fowler for a really awesome article the got a lot of my early thinking about how to build distributing news articles and just 15 not that old but he does this more detail on some points I come in Costa Rica highly recommended and we work remotely . com when we were hiring specifically for remote developers this is where we would advertise and get responses and it's such a focus demographic I think that helps a lot and is also assessing the book that they the the guys that I'm 37 signals that are common mode still website has on the book I'm not 6 minus
then clanging find me at the playing despite every word of Twitter etc. and thank her much and a of trying to review the question so I wanna slides ahead a team that was that was hiring with the next that's it was a bad idea right and and the question I think was when we did bring them into to make a local team had and we do have we had about transition in and lab and the people that were at very and so couple things 1 them 1 of the people just started coming the office for link and he he was already in the area but it wasn't a big deal to start commuting right the other 1 I was in Australia and he hit his head story came the organization by Flickr and to be really honest I missed that he was in Australia when I started interview process but by the end of the few process I was so impressed with and that I said we don't make us work and you break his he he actually hard he had for a for probably 7 months 8 months lived on the east coast time in Australia which God bless and I had can do right but but anyway he we alternately actually had sponsored him and then moved to the estates so knowing the team was like 0 we did we organize to to put them all together and but we we need that happen organization in their on board with that in particular where was it was it was a positive right so to question and when you're nexus with situation and I'm not sure if you're the only person was the outsider or 1 of your OK so you're in that picture where you had a bunch of you 1 location 1 person promotes and then 2 point you're having conversations and decisions being made somehow that that person just because they were spontaneous and how you deal with that it's tough if you find yourself in a situation where we only by give is that you have to be very conscious about it and try to force more of your discussions to happen in a mode where they can be observed by the 1st release from text chat is for the best place for that I don't think there's an easy answer which give you 1 of our philosophy is been just don't do it wherever possible and you can you can someone help that I keep your team small there's less of a risk that if you're only having to manage 3 or 4 people future keeping the team small it's harder have 1 person remote theory on remote your local just by virtue of having a few people to join a just and but the idea that that's the pulse situation and I would it be the same as a string of what ask a question so the question is and are there certain types of products August extremly certain kinds of work that's your all products the the technology some effect and is better better suited to local version wrote yeah and well so projects that require you to physically touch things like putting a server interact that's an easy 1 then that's that's really what led us to the 1 in those teams on site of In the development space I'm trying to think of any project works works purely writing code or we have an issue I can't nothing comes merely to mind pre much everything once you once you get past the physical realm as long as you have a way to communicate I can't think of any I think that either to be community to work effectively with the proviso that you're doing all the things you're doing statute in retrospective Zuniga gathering the team so that the communication is occurring naturally in and 0 when the dimension is besides just the 3 times a year we also if we have a big launch for a big future will bring the team that put a 4 week and will focus on the stories that feature and the and the payoff for that lasts much than 1 week on-site like Figure all pieces out and for 3 months never really good clear picture rather trying to build an outside as well the question is 14 that mixed right now what a cat with my recommendation for getting past that to make them work an and when we did it we and we had that we had the same from the fact about where were people were fell fell Isely people like that of decisions and what we what we tried was of a lot of video conferencing a lot of text chat a lot of notes and wikis and pull requests written documentation um and then and then I would try to encourage people remember when you had a polar conversation to go down the the artifact that into something everyone else can see you can be done my personal opinion is you just gotta be superstar like focused on the on practically pulling those people closer and closer to make sure that that happens and I think that's harder think human nature it's too is a have a quick conversation and and act on it without actually informing anyone else on my advice the if you can try to reorganize such that you don't have the next yeah and that takes time it is I'm not saying it's easier for automatic but the 2nd unenlightening it's hard and I don't think we will do it again if we can help right that's interesting so is your saying that in in your company it's mandated that you have to the maximum 0 and some locals with the goal being to ensure consistent culture again and so 1 of the ways you can address the culture arguments while not doing in a mixed team mode right and OK so sigh tactically smoothing they talk about the luncheon learns are good because they they cross teams and because they have regularly in our case every 2 3 weeks depending on how excited people are about find something to prevent at least every is coming go for that and the other thing we do and I did mention this but the thing we do is as every week be demos on friday and again that's the entire department every gets together everybody sees what everybody else is doing everybody gets to ask questions and in some cases it in this in this case like right now we have 2 teams who were working on alternate sides of the same feature and so what happens to the local 1 have a 0 and and in those cases we are trying to be more and with put them in a single chaplain the and literally really small integer questions I think I think the bigger answer is it's a is it the answer to culture itself is culture is is getting people to to understand each other to respect each other and to want to communicate with each other all these other things can grow out from the right and I don't think I don't think cultures easy I think it's conscious I think it can be done them that they and again free people together so that they get that the space time helps with that such the help and the they're asked Johnson immigrate audience thank you very much that so if you hold
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