Whenever I drill-down a bit on distributed team horror stories, it helps me reflect a bit on how our efforts in Distributed Scrum teams have been widely successful by most standards. I believe the primary factor behind our success was our focus on building trust and spending the time and energy to build that trust.
I'd like to say that we went into distributed scrum with a full-on strategy that enabled success, but only by comparing other companies less successful efforts does in become abundantly clear what we did differently:
1. En-fused company culture in the distributed team by having the original distributed team's leadership originate from the home office. We had a 2 technical managers that had 3 and 10 years with our company respectively that moved into the city that we opened a dual-source office in. This gave use pseudo product owners who could fill in gaps based on previous experience. They also explained the culture, smoothed over rough patches and helped bridge relationships between the new office and the home office.
2. Our distributed team members were converted to employees early on. Nothing creates a second class citizen like having a contractor status, without employment rights, without insight into the companies direction and without a vested interest in the final solution.
3. The distributed team members covered the full range of skills, we didn't have the architects based in the US for example.
4. Product owners visited the dual source office often, including attending office events.
5. Constant communication thru Skype
6. US product owners willing to work crazy hours