Every Team Needs a Headquarters

Back in the days, developers were content wearing ties and having small, yet tall, plain Jane cubicles. You were allowed exactly 3 pieces of flare in your workspace and you had to stand up to see any glimpse of civilization outside your cell cube. You were left alone with all the privacy in the world to follow your instructions and code to exact requirements given to you. No interactions. No collaboration. No creativity. Just mindless coding. Don’t worry…those days are over.

There are many things at an organization that can put a cap or ceiling on the maturity of an Agile team. Mike Cohn refers to these things as organizational gravity. A team’s workspace is one of these things.

Over the last few years I’ve worked as an Engineer and Scrum Master in various workspaces. I’ve worked with small cubicles, large cubicles, rooms, offices, big walls, small walls…and the list goes on. Here are some things I learned and some tips on how your workspace can improve and enable your teams. This is all under the prefix that each team has it’s own space.

1. Tear down those walls

You’re not Trump and you’re not in 8th-5th century BC China and you shouldn’t be trying to keep anybody out of your team space. Tear down those walls between cubicles within your team to promote the first and most important manifesto value: Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools. The more walls and boundaries you have between your teammates, the harder and less convenient it is for you to open a collaborative conversation with them.

2. Remove the chickens

As the old business fable and commitment analogy goes, the pigs are fully committed team members while the chickens are half-way committed stakeholders or influencers. The team space should be all about the team of pigs. While the chickens provide valuable feedback and influence to your product, they can provide more distractions and disruptions to the team’s day to day activities. Remove them from your team space if this is the case but make sure your space is open and welcoming enough so they can come and go when needed to provide maximum value.

3. Team Space = Meeting Space

With all the ceremonies involved in SCRUM, it just makes sense to make your team space double as a meeting space. Throw a big screen TV and a giant white board into the space and then get some extra chairs or a couch for guests (stakeholders). Spotify seems to have this part figured out.

4. Radiate

Transparency is one of the three pillars of SCRUM. Proudly display team information like Burn Charts, Sprint Goal, Story Board, and other useful metrics information on the walls of your team space. They act as constant reminders to the team as well as information to those outside the team who need to know (or think they need to know).

5. Make it your own

Give the team some freedom. Give them what they need but let them make it part of their team identity. Allow them to rearrange the space, choose their own seats, display action figures on their desks, and hang movie posters on the walls. Make them feel comfortable in their space.

Don’t let your space hold you back from building badass software. Throw out those old, outdated workspace rules in favor of better results (hey, that’s an Agile Fu Value). Times are changing. You’re not in an old, stuffy, Waterfall office anymore. You’re in a fast-moving, team-oriented, cutting-edge, top-of-the-line software building headquarters!

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