There’s been a discussion going on the the Retrospectives list on how to do distributed retrospectives and planning meetings. The assumption is that it’s cost prohibitive to bring the group together.
People always site cost as a barrier. It does cost money to bring people together face to face. There’s lodging, airfare, time not spent on billable activities… and all these are easy to count.
But what this thinking doesn’t take into account are the costs of not having the team face to face for planning and retrospectives:
Less collaboration, greater misunderstandings, continuation of us/them dynamics (be they ever so subtle there’s always differences in access to power, information, and resources), miscommunication, etc.
And there’s lost opportunity to build relationships and trust which short-cuts many of those problems.
But all those are hard to measure and quantify, and are almost always left out of the cost equation. People look at the costs without any of the benefits.
Even when you have access to great technology for planning, retrospectives or other forms of collaboration, face to face is still superior for communication and collaboration in the moment and in building a foundation for future communication. Face to face is superior in building shared commitment and infusing a project with energy.