Creating the Right Environment for Teamwork

At work everyone on the team have their own offices. It’s a pretty nice setup: lot’s of space, privacy – in short, it really doesn’t get much better in terms of individual space. However, the offices are scattered about the building and they definitely create barriers to certain kinds of communication. It has all sorts of interesting side effects. For example: currently, people will call into a meeting from their office, even if the meeting room is 10 feet down the hall. I have no idea what impact individual offices have on team productivity compared to other arrangements.

However, very soon now we are going to have an opportunity to observe the differences between individual offices and an open “bay” arrangement with the team co-located. Management has mandated a change to this new arrangement, like it or not. It’s all with the notion of supporting the companies transition to agile development. I’ve worked in both environments and seen many of the advantages/disadvantages of each.

This time I’m making an effort to keep a neutral stance on the change. As you might imagine, there are some folks who are pretty bent out of shape about losing their offices. I’m trying to focus on one question: What can I do to make this new environment as comfortable, relaxing, safe, and collaborative as possible?

Here are a few ideas I came up with to support my goal of creating a comfortable, relaxing, safe, and collaborative environment for the team:

Comfortable furniture

  • Bean Bag chairs
  • Inflatable furniture
  • Folding Lawn furniture
  • A common area for people to gather

Food & lighting, Etc.

  • Food – lots of food
  • Scheduled Starbucks runs
  • Indirect lighting that each individual can customize
  • Espresso Machine/Coffee Maker

Team Identity

  • Mascot
  • Symbols of shared values (i.e. poster of Albert Einstein, Ghandi)
  • Team flag

Fostering close relationships

  • puzzles
  • ongoing chess game
  • Go
  • a cork board with postings of upcoming community events (post that extra pair of opera tickets, football game schedule, etc.)

XP tools

  • Build lava lamps or siren
  • Talking bunny

Sound & Privacy

  • Music
  • White noise generator
  • hanging/rolling whiteboards
  • Japanese screens (those rice paper screens that fold up)

Information Radiators

  • A3’s
  • Task board
  • Domain models (and other architecture artifacts)

Call me fatalistic, but I’m tired of arguing about which environment is better than the other. I’d rather focus on optimizing the environment we have – whatever that may be. There are a tremendous number of things we can do to control and improve our environments as a team (what I’ve listed above are just a few examples). Here are some links to others who have collected examples of team environments:

http://xp123.com/xplor/room-gallery/index.shtml

http://www.versionone.com/Resources/OpenWorkArea.asp

http://www.scissor.com/resources/teamroom/

One Response to Creating the Right Environment for Teamwork

  1. Sue Massey says:

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Sue.

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