It is 2019 christmas. Will you skip the traditional family visit in favor of remote communication technology?
“Dispersed teams is the reality that we have to deal with!” is a common reaction when people discover that the LeSS rules includes “each individual team must be co-located.” Do we need to accept that as reality?
Many claim that modern communication technology has made co-location irrelevant. This is not my experience. Although it is certainly possible for a dispersed team to become high-performing, a typical co-located team still performs significantly better.
A co-located team, where team members are sitting at the same table facing each other, has the potential to be fun and effective. But what makes co-location better? It is the face-to-face conversations that speed up building the high-trust environment required for taking a shared team responsibility. It is the dynamically emerging discussions. It is the unknowingly, accidentally overhearing of a conversation and then suddenly contributing an essential fact to it.
Co-location does matter! It’s impact can be huge.
There are many factors that impact team performance which are not included in the LeSS rules, so why include co-location? Because after exploring the reasons for having dispersed teams, we concluded the most common one is organizational stupidity. Nobody ever bothered to try to co-locate the teams. The most common scenario is where someone high up in an organization decided to have half of the development to be done in a low-cost location. Instead of then designing the organization to maximize co-location, that decision is propagated as a rule through each layer of the organization. The result is that every team becomes a dispersed team. Organizing the same people differently could have resulted in only co-located teams, for the same cost.
Another common reason for dispersing teams, beyond organizational stupidity, is that certain skills are only available in certain locations. This might be a valid reason when acquiring these skills relate to being at that physical location, such as being close to a customer. More often, it an excuse to avoid other teams having to learn that skill. If that location is truly important, it might be worth having a whole team there.
It is always possible to co-locate every team? Perhaps not. But by having co-location included in the LeSS rules, we hope organizations stop accepting dispersed teams as an unchangeable fact and instead put thought and effort towards co-locating teams. It will have an impact on the team and the development.