Distributed Teamwork

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"In a recent speaking engagement, I asked the audience to write down three problems they were having related to distributed Agile. Communication was most commonly mentioned problem with approximately 60% of the responses."
distributedagile.org blog Distributed Agile: The Basics in Four Parts

Suggestion: Best Practices When Referencing Information on a Email Message

First draft: CW Dec 4, 2013

Context: Discussion about an issue that was previously written about on an email.
The practice of explicit communication is a key element of this practice. Thus I've written about it in an explicit manner. This implies an attention to detail that results in a somewhat longer piece than one might be used to.

The working assumption is that words previously written about a topic

  • Help shape the implicit understanding, context, and mental framework each participant holds about the issue at question.
  • Helps to clarify and better understand what you or others may be thinking.
  • Acknowledges and honors previous communication and indicates a stance of 'active listening' thus builds trust. Further, it may encourage all participants to 'raise the level of their game' regarding communication.

Email Best Practice # 1

Internally take note that the topic under current verbal discussion was previously written about on an email.

Discussion: The practice begins with consciously taking a mental (or explicit verbal) note that at least parts of the issue currently under discussion was touched upon in a previous email.

Email Best Practice # 2

Find the email or emails in question and have them open in front of you.

Locating these emails may best be done in preparation for the meeting.

Email Best Practice # 3

In a meeting mediated by GoToMeeting, webinar or similar video technology display & share the email that best represents the topic most at hand.


  • Scroll to the portion of the email most relevant.
  • Use the cursor or other highlighting technology to indicate the most relevant, salient, and/or apropos lines. This action reflects your current thinking and understanding of the issue at that moment and shares that understanding with others.
  • In GoToMeeting share the screen so that others can browse it.


  • By choosing an email to display and by pointing to/highlighting the portion that seems most relevant practitioners may be concerned that they mis-identify the most relevant portions and/or over-controls the meeting. Consider that by highlighting the portion of previous communication that you think is most relevant that you are communicating important information to others. If, for instance, others hold another understanding or sense of priority your action has help identify a potential misunderstanding and suggests a means of resolving it. Also that you are sharing your current understanding at that moment in time.
  • What if the topic was covered by more than email? It would be ideal if a summary of the emails in question could be shown. The summary would include subject line, date/time, and recipients.