Fully Distributed & Asynchronous: Building Eventually-Coordinated Teams That Ship

Fully Distributed & Asynchronous: Building Eventually-Coordinated Teams That Ship

"Fully Distributed & Asynchronous" describes a new scaling model for teams, which is dramatically different from vertical scaling (one big office) or horizontal scaling (multiple offices across regions).

The Fully Distributed model takes inspiration from how top-tier open source projects are run (e.g. Linux), wherein "the web is the office". People collaborate across geographies using digital tools that fit the job at hand.

Parse.ly runs a fully distributed & asynchronous team, and this talk describes the history and culture that drive its norms. We learn how the open source Debian project and Joel Spolsky's Fog Creek Software served as an inspiration in the early 2000's for a model that respects developer autonomy, private offices, and mission-driven flow on high-impact projects. We learn how distributed teams are somewhat like distributed systems -- their communication patterns are complex, and involve a series of trade-offs. In particular, we dig in how the CAP Theorem could be used as an analogy for distributed teams, and how overcoming Brooks's Law for scaling engineering teams might be a tradeoff similar to the one made in distributed databases. In the end, we learn that "eventually-coordinated" teams that ship frequently might create just the right mix of communication, autonomy, and cadence. More pragmatically, we discuss how to retain humanity even as the team eliminates face-to-face meetings as a primary management tool.


Andrew Montalenti

December 19, 2018