One of the most popular articles here is 10 Rules For Great Development Spaces, so I thought I’d follow up by explicitly listing signs of bad spaces. These are my top 9, but I’d love to hear what others people have noticed.
- People wearing headphones. Part of the reason to sit together is to listen to one another. If team members are wearing headphones, they can’t do that. Don’t blame them, though; figure out what noise or distraction drives people to do that and eliminate the root problem. And if they aren’t part of the team, move them elsewhere.
- Stale artifacts on the walls. Every artifact on the wall should be there for a reason. If there are a lot of stale plans, charts, or lists on the walls and whiteboards, that’s a sign of trouble. Immediately prune the junk!
- Workspace as information desert. Development teams turn knowledge into software products. Rather than requiring effort to find things out, a good workspace requires effort to avoid knowing what’s going on. Bare walls often indicate low collaboration or high confusion.
- Minimal interaction. If team members sit near one another and never talk, it’s often a sign of an underlying problem. I’ve seen this caused by bad relationships, code silos, excess division of labor, too-long release cycles, excess schedule pressure, and plain old shyness.
- Furniture as barrier. Furniture should help you work, not get in the way. Barriers are great to reduce noise and chaos at team boundaries, but true teams should be able to share space and collaborate effectively.
- Sad or ugly spaces. You will likely spend more waking hours in this room than any other. Shouldn’t it be nice?
- Seating by job description. Agile approaches require cross-functional teams to make whole products. If people are grouped by job description, that is at least a barrier to collaboration, and often a sign of unhelpful silos. Group people by project instead.
- Space and furniture as status markers. In some companies, being distant from the action is a sign of status. On Agile teams, that’s a mistake. Instead of using rooms and desks to indicate hierarchy, give people the tools they need to do their jobs.
- No laughter, no fun. This is a big one for me. Every really productive team I’ve visited enjoys the work and their fellow team members. Money can make people show up, but it’s joy that gets the best results.
That’s my list. What’s yours?