Distinguishing Distributed from Dispersed

An upscaling technique for Scrum is installing Multiple Scrum Teams, i.e. fully enabled Scrum Teams that work in parallel. It includes the introduction of a ‘Scrum of Scrums’ to discuss integration aspects across the Teams and the identification of integration tasks for the Teams. The working increment at the Sprint Review should be an integrated result.

It’s all about inspecting reality. A Product Owner cannot figure out whether separate increments work well together without real… inspection. Less than integrated increments leaves unknown, undone work in the system. Putting Quality, time and predictability at risk.

And it would eliminate transparency. Taking away the basis for adaptation, not? Gone are then the pillars of empiricism. No use in putting a cloth over the thermostat if you want the heating to adjust to the real room temperature.

When applying Scrum in a non-collocated mode (or whatever deceptive term is used) the concept of Multiple Scrum Teams is usable if you have complete Scrum Teams at globally spread locations. You will still need some grouping notion over Product Backlog items (themes, packages, features) to orderly distribute work. But every Team has its Sprint Backlog, sprints as a ‘Whole Team Together’ and does a Daily Scrum. The Teams share a ‘Definition of Done’ and engineering standards (as well as source code and integration systems). They figure out a way to do common Sprint Reviews. These are Distributed Teams, full Teams that work together on a Product/platform at different locations in the world.

But people use ‘distributed’ even if they in fact mean Dispersed Teams. When the Team members of a Scrum Team are spread over the globe. It requires a different approach to organizing Scrum, looking for solutions to have a Daily Scrum… daily, with the complete Team (of Developers) at a (convenient) fixed time, and a fixed place. To organize a Sprint Planning with the complete Scrum Team. To have short, direct communication.

Important reasons to think very consciously about the type of ‘distribution’ teams are working in, in order to be well organized.

And, whatever formula is being applied to collaborate across the world, voice calls do not suffice. It requires video conferencing, electronic whiteboards and a virtual form of a shared visual workspace. There is additional overhead. And traveling should be included in the calculations (for collocated Team formation, regular visits, social contacts). It tends to cut the cost cutting that (let’s be honest) offshoring is being used for.

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