Lessons Learned with Distributed Scrums

Holding team meetings where the team members are not in the same place is not fun, and it becomes less fun the more distributed the team becomes. The following rules of thumb came about when I had to run teams of consultants where no one was in the same place and the places they were ranged from their office to their home or car, or airport lounge, or even their bed when they were in on the other side of the world.

The first thing we noticed is that a little more structure and role definition was required so that people could better self herd themselves


  1. ScrumMaster run the scrum, keep time. Must have good phone that does not add noise to the line
  2. Scribe take down key points (usually this person was the one in the office or someplace where there was a horizontal writing space and enough quiet to concentrate)
  3. TeamMember person who kept their phone on mute unless given the ‘stick to talk’

The second difference is the structure needed a protocol to insure everyone could participate. This led to the following team driven agreements on the Scrum. The most important of which is the timebox with a Max time of 15 minutes to complete the following:


  1. No speaker phones. These are great for everyone sitting together but terrible to listen to.
  2. All actions are time boxed
  3. First activity is for each team member to answer the questions three with no interruptions (15 secs max per task)
  4. Team members keep their questions, comments, and what-have-you on stickies
  5. ScrumMaster reports out all actions on blocks, and any new information
  6. At the end of the questions 3 the ScrumMaster polls each person for any questions Team members tear up any duplicate stickies
  7. Open Microphone – general discussion on each thread – 1 minute max for each comment
  8. Synch questions – questions designed to clarify any stray points – 30 sec
  9. Take aways and off line – people who want to dive on a point set up a time to set it up and do it, no calendar trolling allowed on line.
  10. Scribe time – scribe gets to set the noodles in a row and send out email
  11. ScrumMaster Sums up. Sum up includes acknowledging blocks, key linkups, and next meeting time.
  12. ScrumMaster asks “What did I miss?” and team memebers fill in holes and then concurs with summary.
  13. ScrumMaster then announces “SCRUM Over, Open Microphone for as long as people want it.”

Things to improve this

Team writes up their questions three and sends to Scribe before meeting. Scribe then cuts and pastes into a single email and sends to team during meeting. Team member still reports them on line.