As many organizations are adopting a distributed team model to tap into a broader talent pool and increase flexibility, project management processes can become impacted and require adjustment or improvement to continue being successful. Project management teams who use agile frameworks like Scrum have likely faced this issue. This post will explore three Scrum best practices to consider while working with remote Scrum teams.

1. Scrum Team Size

Remote Scrum teams are becoming increasingly common as more organizations embrace remote work. The Scrum framework is well-suited to remote work because it emphasizes frequent communication and collaboration among team members. Remote Scrum teams can use a variety of tools to facilitate communication, such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software.

One important consideration for remote Scrum teams is team size. Scrum teams are typically small and self-organizing, with a recommended size of five to nine members (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2020). However, some organizations may have larger teams, particularly if they are working on complex projects or have multiple Scrum teams working together. In general, larger teams may require more coordination and communication, which can be more challenging for remote teams.

There is some evidence to suggest that larger teams may be less effective than smaller teams, particularly in remote settings. A study by Bingham and Eisenhardt [1] found that larger teams can be slower and less productive and may have more difficulty coordinating their efforts. However, other studies have found that team size is not a significant predictor of team performance [2].

Overall, the size of a remote Scrum team will depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the project, the level of coordination required, and the preferences of the team members and organization. However, it is generally recommended that Scrum teams are kept small and self-organizing, with a focus on frequent communication and collaboration.

2. Multiple Time Zones

Remote Scrum teams that are spread across different time zones can face various challenges that can hinder their productivity and efficiency. Some of the challenges that remote Scrum teams face in multiple time zones include communication difficulties, differences in work culture, coordination challenges, and the risk of burnout due to irregular working hours.

Communication Difficulties

Communication is essential for any Scrum team to collaborate and work effectively. However, communication can become a challenge when team members are in different time zones. For instance, when one team member is sleeping, another team member may be working, making it difficult to have real-time conversations. Additionally, differences in languages, accents, and cultural nuances can also make communication challenging.

Differences in Work Culture

Different cultures have different ways of working, and this can be a challenge for remote Scrum teams. For example, in some cultures, speaking up in meetings may be considered rude, while in others, it may be expected. These differences can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Coordination Challenges

Scrum teams need to coordinate their work and synchronize their efforts to ensure that they are working towards the same goals. However, when team members are in different time zones, coordination can become difficult. For example, a team member may not be able to attend a meeting due to the time difference, causing delays in decision-making and project progress.

Risk of Burnout

When team members are in different time zones, they may have to work irregular hours to accommodate their colleagues’ schedules. This can lead to burnout, especially if team members do not have a proper work-life balance.

To overcome these challenges, investigate tools that offer asynchronous collaboration. There are many apps available that offer ways to facilitate ceremonies that allow team members to respond during times that work best for them. Additionally, you can work with your team to decide on core overlapping working hours which is a set time when team members know that others will be available to collaborate. Lastly, try to include heads-down days where teams are given a break from formal meetings and can spend those days working on tasks and collaborating with their teammates on their tasks.

3. Building Relationships

Remote Scrum teams face significant challenges in building relationships and trust remotely. In a remote environment, team members may feel isolated and disconnected, making it challenging to build relationships and work collaboratively. Here are some of the challenges that remote Scrum teams face in building relationships and trust remotely.

Communication Barriers

Communication is essential for building relationships and trust, but remote teams may face communication barriers due to time zone differences, language barriers, or cultural differences.

Lack of Face-To-Face Interactions

In a remote environment, team members may not have the opportunity for face-to-face interactions, making it difficult to build relationships and trust.

Limited Social Interactions

Remote teams may have limited opportunities for social interactions, which can make it difficult to build relationships and trust.

Technology Issues

Technology can be a significant barrier to building relationships and trust remotely. Technical issues such as poor audio quality, connectivity problems, or video delays can disrupt communication and make it challenging to build relationships and trust.

Lack of Visibility

In a remote environment, team members may have limited visibility into each other’s work, which can make it difficult to build trust.

To overcome these challenges, the last and arguably the most important consideration of Scrum best practices is that remote teams need to adopt specific strategies and best practices that help build relationships and trust remotely. This includes promoting transparency, using video conferencing tools effectively, encouraging social interactions, creating opportunities for feedback and recognition, and building a strong team culture.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, leading remote Scrum teams comes with its own set of unique challenges. It requires effective communication, trust, and collaboration between team members, which can be difficult to achieve when team members are spread out geographically. However, with these Scrum best practices and the right tools in place, it is possible to overcome these challenges and achieve successful outcomes with remote Scrum teams. It is important to prioritize regular check-ins and clear communication, establish a sense of team cohesion and leverage technology to facilitate collaboration and keep everyone on track. By doing so, remote Scrum teams can work together seamlessly and achieve their goals effectively. In my next post, we will look at some experiments and ideas my teams are trying to mitigate some of these remote work challenges and if they were successful.


[1] Bingham, C. B., & Eisenhardt, K. M. (2011). Rational heuristics: The ‘simple rules’ that strategists learn from process experience. Strategic Management Journal, 32(13), 1437-1464.

[2] Mathieu, J. E., Maynard, M. T., Rapp, T., & Gilson, L. (2008). Team effectiveness 1997-2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future. Journal of Management, 34(3), 410-476.

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