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Agile workplace - best configuration?

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  • Steve Povilaitis
    Folks, I apologize for being slightly off-topic, but I would like your thoughts regarding what you feel is the optimum configuration for an agile workplace.
    Message 1 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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      Folks,

      I apologize for being slightly off-topic, but I would like your thoughts
      regarding what you feel is the optimum configuration for an agile
      workplace. I've heard conflicting views on what is best. For example, Joel
      Spolsky, of Joel on Software, states that every developer should have
      their own office. Yet other folks recommend that work teams be co-located
      within a single room or area with no walls between desks, to facilitate
      better collaboration. In my current environment, we have all of the
      developers for our team share one area - no cubes or separate offices -
      which is great for collaboration since a lot of impromptu pair programming
      and design goes on. Yet at times I know our folks need a place free of
      distractions to get in the 'zone' and bang out some code. How do you
      support both? If you could design the perfect agile office floorplan what
      would it look like?

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    • Schiel, James (MED US)
      I would recommend teamrooms where everyone works together, but also to set aside a number of private offices where small meetings and private work time could
      Message 2 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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        I would recommend teamrooms where everyone works together, but also to
        set aside a number of private offices where small meetings and private
        work time could be accomplished. Put doors on the offices, a whiteboard,
        desk, chairs, table in the office. If the door is open, the room is
        available. If the door is closed, it isn't. The team can monitor if
        someone is using the offices TOO much. Additionally, conference rooms
        may be needed for larger and/or scheduled meetings.

        Jim Schiel
        Siemens Medical Solutions

        -----Original Message-----
        From: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Steve Povilaitis
        Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 9:36 AM
        To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [scrumdevelopment] Agile workplace - best configuration?

        Folks,

        I apologize for being slightly off-topic, but I would like your thoughts

        regarding what you feel is the optimum configuration for an agile
        workplace. I've heard conflicting views on what is best. For example,
        Joel
        Spolsky, of Joel on Software, states that every developer should have
        their own office. Yet other folks recommend that work teams be
        co-located
        within a single room or area with no walls between desks, to facilitate

        better collaboration. In my current environment, we have all of the
        developers for our team share one area - no cubes or separate offices -

        which is great for collaboration since a lot of impromptu pair
        programming
        and design goes on. Yet at times I know our folks need a place free of
        distractions to get in the 'zone' and bang out some code. How do you
        support both? If you could design the perfect agile office floorplan
        what
        would it look like?

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      • Nicholas Cancelliere
        James has the most healthy approach I think. I ve read and believe through experience, that teams communicate best when co-located in the same room. This room
        Message 3 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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          James has the most healthy approach I think.

          I've read and believe through experience, that teams communicate best when co-located in the same room.  This room has the burndown chart and other information radiators very visible.  They have access to white boards and other easy-to-use collaboration tools.  There is access to a conference room (to do planning meetings), and some private cubes or offices where pair programming or breakout working groups can meet.  

          Teams can monitor their use of the private areas, as well as establish rules about the common room.  Many teams will have "no meetings" time between 3pm and 5pm, to give folks a quite environment in the common room to wrap up their days work.  You can also use traffic cones to establish "cones of silence" where folks are not to bother or talk loudly near those who have cones out on their desk.

          There are lots of clever things you can do - I'd present all the ideas you can to the team and let them decide how they best enjoy working together.  (The keyword is "together").  Forcing teams to co-locate that are really dead-set against it can do more harm that good.  You need to feel out for yourself how much resistance there is.  Almost everyone initially resists the idea, unless they've had that experience before.  So don't dismiss it at face value -- but I have seen some teams really fight it.  There's no good done if the team keeps referring to "not having privacy" or "not being able to think with distractions" as to why work isn't getting done.  This is where the side-rooms (or cubes) come in to ease the privacy concerns.

          Nicholas


          On Dec 3, 2007, at 8:35 AM, Steve Povilaitis wrote:

          Folks,

          I apologize for being slightly off-topic, but I would like your thoughts  
          regarding what you feel is the optimum configuration for an agile  
          workplace. I've heard conflicting views on what is best. For example, Joel  
          Spolsky, of Joel on Software, states that every developer should have  
          their own office. Yet other folks recommend that work teams be co-located  
          within a single room or area with no walls between desks, to facilitate  
          better collaboration. In my current environment, we have all of the  
          developers for our team share one area - no cubes or separate offices -  
          which is great for collaboration since a lot of impromptu pair programming  
          and design goes on. Yet at times I know our folks need a place free of  
          distractions to get in the 'zone' and bang out some code. How do you  
          support both? If you could design the perfect agile office floorplan what  
          would it look like?

          --
          Using Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/mail/


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          ---
          Nicholas Cancelliere
          Austin, TX



        • James S. Fosdick, PMP, CSP
          I think team rooms are crucial to foster the kind of hypercollaboration that agile methods require. That being said people do need their own space from time to
          Message 4 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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            I think team rooms are crucial to foster the kind of
            hypercollaboration that agile methods require. That being said people
            do need their own space from time to time. Our current configuration
            is that each team has everything setup in a single room with cubicle
            furniture dismantled so that everyone is working in a circle with
            white boards around the perimeter. In addition most developers have
            their own office which they share with one or 2 people. In general
            team members don't spend much time in their offices except Scrum
            Masters. In addition we have a large conference room converted into a
            "play room" with comfy couches a big flat screen TV Xbox etc.
          • Nicholas Cancelliere
            It s really great if the team is able to choose their environment, or if the company is willing to pay for the costs of reconfiguring the environment. Some
            Message 5 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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              It's really great if the team is able to choose their environment, or if the company is willing to pay for the costs of reconfiguring the environment.  

              Some teams are stuck with what they have (either do to lack of resources, politics, or whatever).  It really needs to fall upon the creativity of the team to figure out ways to best use the space their in to be highly collaborative.  The ScrumMaster then has the task of supporting the "team room vision" - however possible.  It might mean you have a heart-to-heart with your real estate or CTO.

              I've heard a story before where HR said it was too costly to reconfigure all the cubes.  So the team figured out how much they were willing to spend on a reconfiguration and the team went and bought stuff from IKEA on that budget -- and got rid of cubes all together.  Not using the expensive cubical supplier and labor etc. they were able to reconfigure the space using simple tables and chairs, etc.  Not only did they reconfigure but they "updated" the look and feel with the IKEA furniture which was nicer than the drab, common business cubical stuff they would of had gotten.  So they truly changed the environment.

              (I don't know if it's just a good story - or if it actually happened, but it's an inspiring story!  The point is don't lose heart so fast when told "no" and look for creative means to get results.)  

              Nicholas



              On Dec 3, 2007, at 12:15 PM, James S. Fosdick, PMP, CSP wrote:

              I think team rooms are crucial to foster the kind of
              hypercollaboration that agile methods require. That being said people
              do need their own space from time to time. Our current configuration
              is that each team has everything setup in a single room with cubicle
              furniture dismantled so that everyone is working in a circle with
              white boards around the perimeter. In addition most developers have
              their own office which they share with one or 2 people. In general
              team members don't spend much time in their offices except Scrum
              Masters. In addition we have a large conference room converted into a
              "play room" with comfy couches a big flat screen TV Xbox etc.



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              ---
              Nicholas Cancelliere
              Austin, TX



            • Steve Povilaitis
              On Mon, 03 Dec 2007 17:14:23 -0500, Nicholas Cancelliere ... Thanks to everyone that chimed in on this thread. We re moving to a new location that we ll be
              Message 6 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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                On Mon, 03 Dec 2007 17:14:23 -0500, Nicholas Cancelliere
                <nickaustin74@...> wrote:

                >
                > It's really great if the team is able to choose their environment, or
                > if the company is willing to pay for the costs of reconfiguring the
                > environment.

                Thanks to everyone that chimed in on this thread. We're moving to a new
                location that we'll be able to build out from scratch to our liking, so
                I'm trying to get some ideas for how we want to do it.
              • Ilja Preuss
                If I had the option, I would definitely go with a Caves and Commons layout, as suggested by James. Our team moved from private offices to an open team room two
                Message 7 of 10 , Dec 3, 2007
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                  If I had the option, I would definitely go with a Caves and Commons
                  layout, as suggested by James.

                  Our team moved from private offices to an open team room two years ago,
                  and though they were quite skeptical at the beginning, nobody wants to
                  go back. We now have a small room with a single workplace in addition to
                  the team room, but it only gets used occasionally (for example for
                  extensive phone calls).

                  Plan for lots of plants in the room - that makes a big difference
                  regarding the room climate!

                  You might want to take a look at
                  http://xp123.com/xplor/room-gallery/index.shtml for some inspiration.

                  Cheers, Ilja
                • Steve Povilaitis
                  Thanks for the link Ilja! I m definitely going to recommend the caves and commons layout. If anyone has any links to other outstanding workplace setups I would
                  Message 8 of 10 , Dec 4, 2007
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                    Thanks for the link Ilja! I'm definitely going to recommend the caves and
                    commons layout. If anyone has any links to other outstanding workplace
                    setups I would love to see them.

                    Steve

                    On Tue, 04 Dec 2007 01:30:02 -0500, Ilja Preuss <it@...> wrote:

                    > If I had the option, I would definitely go with a Caves and Commons
                    > layout, as suggested by James.
                    >
                    > Our team moved from private offices to an open team room two years ago,
                    > and though they were quite skeptical at the beginning, nobody wants to
                    > go back. We now have a small room with a single workplace in addition to
                    > the team room, but it only gets used occasionally (for example for
                    > extensive phone calls).
                    >
                    > Plan for lots of plants in the room - that makes a big difference
                    > regarding the room climate!
                    >
                    > You might want to take a look at
                    > http://xp123.com/xplor/room-gallery/index.shtml for some inspiration.
                    >
                    > Cheers, Ilja
                    >
                    >
                    > To Post a message, send it to: scrumdevelopment@...
                    > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
                    > scrumdevelopment-unsubscribe@...
                    > Yahoo! Groups Links
                    >
                    >
                    >



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                  • Nicholas Cancelliere
                    You re very lucky then to be in that situation. I would go with a common room with side offices, what Ilja affectionately refers to caves and commons.
                    Message 9 of 10 , Dec 4, 2007
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                      You're very lucky then to be in that situation.

                      I would go with a common room with side offices, what Ilja affectionately refers to "caves and commons."  That'd be my ideal setup.  Have you spoken to your team about it though?  What are they thinking about?

                      Nicholas


                      On Dec 3, 2007, at 4:37 PM, Steve Povilaitis wrote:

                      On Mon, 03 Dec 2007 17:14:23 -0500, Nicholas Cancelliere  
                      <nickaustin74@...> wrote:


                      It's really great if the team is able to choose their environment, or
                      if the company is willing to pay for the costs of reconfiguring the
                      environment.

                      Thanks to everyone that chimed in on this thread. We're moving to a new  
                      location that we'll be able to build out from scratch to our liking, so  
                      I'm trying to get some ideas for how we want to do it.


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                      ---
                      Nicholas Cancelliere
                      Austin, TX



                    • Steve Freeman
                      Another advantage of the Ikea approach is flexibility, there should be no reason that the configuration has to stay the same for ever. Try out a shape and
                      Message 10 of 10 , Jan 18, 2008
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                        Another advantage of the "Ikea" approach is flexibility, there should
                        be no reason that the configuration has to stay the same for ever.
                        Try out a shape and change it if it doesn't work.

                        If you have a larger budget, apparently the manufacturers have been
                        working on flexible office furniture (castors, adjustable heights,
                        that sort of thing) for years.

                        S.

                        Steve Freeman
                        http://www.mockobjects.com

                        Winner of the Agile Alliance Gordon Pask award 2006
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