Agile Team Room – Open Office for Communication

Open office

A team that works together!

Whenever I meet with a client and we get to talking about how the resources are allocated and how many members of the team there are, invariably we’ll end up talking about how the team is situated logistically. It’s always readily apparent to me that an organization or team is ready and willing to adopt or embrace agile practices if it is willing to have it’s environment shift and change as well.

I know, I know, we are people and creatures of habit, yes. But if the primary focus of a development team is to provide value to the customer, then shouldn’t we be acting (sitting) in a way that would be conducive to that? I mean, isn’t that the whole purpose: to enable us to provide as much value as we can?

Well, not only that, but communication is key as well in the agile office. We want to make sure that we have open lines of communication and remove the barriers to effective collaboration as much as possible. As I see it, the agile environment is an anti-cubicle farm. A couple of points to note when moving to an agile workspace:

  1. Team members are in close proximity to each other, preferably facing one another
  2. There is a centralized team area where most of the work is done with privacy areas for individual “heads-down” work or personal time
  3. Walls are used to posting notes, displaying charts, graphs and the results of brainstorming
  4. Team members should have easy access to whiteboards or charting paper to collaborate quickly and effectively with team members

What happens if you can’t get everyone in the same room? What about off-shoring? This can be a learning process in that regardless of where your team members are located, the essential goal is to deliver value to the stakeholders. One can accommodate distributed team members as long as all adhere to the principles of collaboration and consciously learn from the process. Some practices will work, such as teleconferencing and webcam conferencing, but there Is no silver bullet. If something doesn’t work, try something different. Eventually each work environment can achieve agility and productivity as the team narrows down what works and what doesn’t.

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10 Responses to “Agile Team Room – Open Office for Communication”

  1. Jordan
    June 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Not surprisingly, I don’t believe, and neither does Joel Splosky, that open team rooms are the way to go.

    I think there should be open spaces that workers CAN go to, but that should not be the default mode.

    What you have depicted (and I’ve seen even worse war rooms) is an environment where bugs are bred.

    Noone can concentrate, they cannot concentrate for long because they are constantly interrupted.

    We need to put the focus back on being able to concentrate, and being able to meet as necessary.

    Software development is NOT primarily an exercise in communication; yes there should be communication, but there shouldn’t be a need for constant communication if a reasonable amount of planning is done.

    The abdication of planning and documentation leads to an environment where people have to tug on each other’s shirts constantly, destroying concentration and fostering a bug breeding ground.

    Jordan

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