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Agile Team Spaces: Do's and Don'ts

by Vikas Hazrati on Feb 23, 2010 |

Many of us, who are new to Agile, would believe that putting an Agile team together in a room gets the job done. A few of us would actually pay attention to what makes a room a team room which can enhance productivity and motivation. Many Agile teams have already shared their perspective on what would make an ideal team room. Here are a few recent ones.

Rich compares the war rooms to the lab where Thomas Edison was working. He mentioned that apart from the fact that the entire team got to work together, one of the other big advantage is that of Serendipity. The effect of overhearing the ideas of others and using that as a spur for innovation. He quoted William Pretzer, author of “Working at Inventing

Far from being the sedate intellectual environment characterized by library quiet, Edison’s labs were noisy, crowded places that often seemed on the point of uproar.

William Pietri put together a list of rules for great development spaces. Amongst the well documented suggestions like putting the team together, room for daily standup, enough whiteboards and information radiators other suggestions included,

  • Get collaboration-friendly desks – William suggested this as one of the big pitfalls. He mentioned that many companies would like to foster collaboration but end up having furniture which is hostile to it.
  • Minimize distractions – The recommended rules to minimize distractions for the development stations include no phones, no email or IM, no off-topic conversation, less foot traffic and executives stay on mute.
  • Only direct contributors sit in the room – No chickens and certainly not the receptionist nor the sales people who would mostly be on the phone.
  • Pleasant space – Good lighting, decent air, plants, decorations and snacks.

Robert McGeachy recommended a list of information radiators to be a part of every team room. Apart from the standard Scrum Artifacts, his list included,

  • Team structure with who's on the team
  • Client Organization structure
  • High Level and Mid Level plans
  • Client Phase exit criteria
  • Team performance survey results
  • Risks
  • Recognition awards
  • Ground Rules

Somehow, there is also a strong focus on being connected with nature. Mike Cohn mentions a window as a requirement for the ideal workspace. Likewise Andy Powell, mentioned the benefits of working outside with the nature. He mentioned,

As a developer, I’d like to be able to work outside, so I can enjoy the work more.

William Pietri also took a stab at defining how you could identify a bad team space easily. He listed the following points,

  • People wearing headphones
  • Stale artifacts on the walls
  • Workspace as information desert
  • Minimal interaction
  • Furniture as barrier
  • Sad or ugly spaces
  • Seating by job description
  • Space and furniture as status markers
  • No laughter, no fun

Most of the above points would narrow down to strong lack of communication and uninspiring ambience of the workplace.

Thus, apart from getting the entire team together in one room, there are other subtle differences which distinguishes the room in which a team is sitting from the team room. The key is to work on the factors which foster communication and motivation thus leading to productivity.

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