Augmented Distributed Agile Teams - The Need of Local Retrospective

World is becoming a global village especially in form of communication and the dissemination of information. In context of current economic turmoil and lack of enough trained software professionals locally, distributed Agile is becoming a norm for software project execution.

Earlier, most of the times, entire distributed software project used to be executed completely at offshore because of time-zone differences and communication issues. Now because of communication revolution, you see a new trend where software companies like to extend their teams (augmented Agile teams) with different vendors. Recently while working in such a project from a distributed location, we realized the need of local retrospective.


As part of retrospective (Scrum practice), at the end of a sprint (iteration), entire team sit together and discusses the good points and points of improvement. At the end of it, entire team converges to vote on the most important "points of improvements" which could be implemented in the next sprint.

During one of such retrospectives we realized that sometimes, some points of improvements are local in nature. For instance, team in US may feel strongly about some issues for which Indian team may not feel with the same intensity and vice-versa.

It leads to situations where issues are lost somewhere because of lack of consensus between distributed teams. Sometimes there can be cases in which because of some political and management reasons, the local (vendor) team may not want to discuss some local issues with other part (customer) of team.

In such cases, there used to be some informal discussions on problems within the team but most of the times without any solutions (action points) and action owners. Also those discussions used to be one-on-one discussions but not with entire local team. Not taken seriously, it created even bigger problems for the team in long run.

Finally we realized that we need a formal forum in which entire team sits together, discusses local points of improvements, identify action items and action-owner. Also it's important to identify somebody on alternate basis to track the actions taken.

As part of the Agile philosophy of keeping information radiator always visible, these retrospective action items should also be visible on Scrum board.

We realized that having local retrospective helped the team a lot as we could focus on many local points of improvements like "how to gain domain knowledge quickly, how to improve on pair switching etc" which otherwise wouldn't have been possible and could have lost somewhere.

Comments (2)

  1. jmalik - Reply

    May 22, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Hi ShriKant,

    Good that it worked for you guys. But I am a bit sceptical how it would work with the true sense of a single team. Communication which is the back bone of any distributed team, makes sense here to keep whole of the local team on the same page and sometimes teams use local Scrum master for this job. But to call it and have local retrospective:

    Why do you need it?

    local team issues: The team have some local issues which needs to be addressed.
    to impress team on the other side: The local team come together to impress the team on the other side to prove that the distributed development work.
    to impress the client: If the client is part of the team, you keep local issues hidden and not to expose to the client.

    And few points you mentioned:

    points of improvements local in nature: I would say that it can be an action item for the local team to come up with some solution, do we need to name it as local retrospective.
    political and management issues: good, team up and fight for it.
    share mom: makes sense, means you no longer planning to hide it from people on the other side.

    Like other scrum meetings, having local standup helps the team to get started etc. but having local retrospective to resolve the issues more effectively, well have to try and see. And surely to see how it would effect the single team feeling. Moreover worth trying and fare enough if it works for the team.

  2. ShriKant Vashishtha - Reply

    May 22, 2009 at 9:44 am

    We never felt issues in terms of one-team. Also it had nothing to do with impressing somebody. Retrospectives are done to take steps on the points of improvements which helps the team to perform better. The team dynamics of an augmented team is a bit different than a normal distributed setup as you are dealing with the client and team-members at the same time. I'll write a separate post regarding the same. However retrospective is a formal and defined channel to take action points on the points of improvements identified. We named it as local retrospective as "retrospective" is nothing but introspect, identifying problems, come up with action-points and action-owner and act upon them.

    It worked very well for us and we fixed many issues which helped team to outperform in coming sprints. From team-spirit point of view also, it actually helped us as we could focus on improving upon engagement which by definition includes team-spirit also.

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