Last week, I did a tour through Eastern Europe. I did 2 talks and 2 workshops on 3 locations and some things stood out for me. The most interesting thing to me was to see how teams in India do the workshop (I did the same workshop about a month ago in India) versus teams in Eastern Europe. On the Agilia conference, the workshop was very short and we had people from different countries, so I’ll document my Trivandrum and Kiev experience here.
In my distributed team workshop, I always start with a short presentation about the challenges and solutions for distributed teams. I then explain how the workshop will work: team size, how to use the distributed team canvas and the use of sticky notes. I also have a handout with questions and examples of practices other teams applied successfully. I experimented with giving the teams scenarios they could use to stimulate their thinking (I did that in India too).
Now some things that stood out for me:
People in the West often say that in their work with Indian teams, they need to give very detailed instructions and tasks are followed literally. I always understand what they mean. But in the workshop I did, I was amazed by the self-organizing power of the teams in India.
I had given them the scenarios, explained how to use our canvas and gave them the handouts. And off they went. Some teams had a few questions, but the teams seemed to get into the flow right away. They used creativity to do the work and took a ‘go with the flow’ attitude towards learning. Everyone was very energetic and positive about the learning experience and the exercise.
On Agile EE in Kiev, some teams started off, but most teams got stuck. They took the instructions very literally and they got confused on how to apply the scenarios to the canvas and how to mix that with the questions from the handout. So they started asking me how to get going.
This points to several things (which also happen in software projects): people want to get clarity first to avoid implementing the wrong things (in this case, they wanted to get the maximum learning experience); they dare to challenge assumptions (as a facilitator, I gave them the scenarios which confused people so they started discussing with me how to make the exercise more valuable).
I decided for most teams that they should omit the scenarios and just get started on mapping out the challenges they face in their distributed teams and then shares experiences on what solutions worked for them. It took me some running around (the group was slightly too big for 1 facilitator, that didn’t help either) to get each team going. And once they got going, I was amazed: the energy level and enthusiasm were really big.
Another thing that amazed me was that in Ukraine, teams came up with ‘systems’. They would, for example, give each challenge a number and then link that to the solutions they pasted on the canvas. Sometimes, several solutions matched one challenge or vise versa. Other teams managed to put everything in clear, organized lines, like this picture:
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