Envision Your Optimized Agile Environment

Posted on January 16, 2011

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There are two basic components of a high performance work area; commons and caves.  These two areas have very distinct uses.  The common area is a collocated space used for collaboration and rapid communication.  The cave area is a separate, cube-like space used for deep thought and individual work, as well as personal space.  These two spaces should be connected or located in the same general area.

Here is a breakdown of the key inputs of each area:

Commons: The commons area is an open space used to collocate team members.

Communication:  The commons area should boost free-flowing communication amongst all team members.

  • Information Radiators – charts, wall-of-work, team information, signals, etc.
  • Rapid Information Dispersion
  • Cocktail effect – ability to hear key words in background conversations that trigger attention to the conversation.

Collaboration:  The commons area should promote collaboration between the entire team or a subset of the team.

  • Impromptu Meetings – ad-hoc meetings to address issues, clarify designs or requirements, or align efforts
  • Whiteboard Areas – collaborative spaces to visualize problems/solutions
  • Pairing – two people maintaining focus on a solution set (two heads are better than one)
  • Video Conferencing – for distributed collaboration

Adaptability:  The commons area should be easily adaptable based on the teams needs and lessons learned through inspection.

  • In arranging furniture
  • In forming work groups
  • In changing what is communicated, information radiators, etc.
  • In changing how work is done, single programmer, paired programmer, tester and programmer, etc.
  • Large Area – to allow maximum adaptability
  • Connectivity – easily accessible/adaptable, high bandwidth connections
  • Power – easily accessible/adaptable
  • Phone – easily accessible/adaptable
  • Video Conferencing – easily accessible/adaptable

Whole-Team Meeting Space:  The commons area should be used for all whole-team meetings.

  • Daily Stand-up
  • Sprint/Release Planning and Project Roadmapping
  • Retrospective
  • Sprint Demo

Distractions:  The commons area should reduce the number of non value-add distractions or interruptions.

  • Noise – sounds outside of team communication
  • People – individuals not on team in common area

Personal Space:  The commons area should allow for storage of personal items.

  • Area for Misc Items – coat rack, personal filing cabinets, etc.

Infrastructure:  The commons area should have adequate infrastructure to accommodate requirements from the other key criteria.

  • Lighting – natural light
  • Temperature Control
  • Windows
  • Walled in space with a door
  • Sound deadening

Hygiene:  The commons area should support good hygiene.

  • Antiseptics and disinfectants
  • Air filtration system
  • Regular cleaning schedule

Ergonomics:  The commons area should be comfortable for all team members to spend extended hours in.

  • Chairs – adjustable and comfortable
  • Desk Size – at least 60×30, with adjustable height
  • Room Size – large enough to fit ten to twelve team members comfortably

Caves: The caves area is meant to facilitate deep thinking and individual problem solving, as well as, non-team related activities.

Communication:  The caves area should allow for non-team related communication and create a buffer between the individual and the team.

  • Personal Communication – IM, Phone, Email, etc.
  • Team Communication – done through an electronic interface that can be ignored, such as email or IM
  • Non-team Related Communication

Distractions:  The caves area should prevent any and all distractions to allow for deep concentration.

  • Noise – library rules
  • People –  this area is for individuals, not groups (of any size)

Personal Space:  The caves area should provide spaces for personal items.

  • Personal pictures, plants, art, etc.
  • Music tastes, IPod, MP3
  • Work space order or disorder

Infrastructure:  The caves area should have adequate infrastructure to accommodate requirements from the other key criteria.

  • Lighting – natural light
  • Temperature Control
  • Walls with a door
  • Cubes
  • Sound deadening

Hygiene:  The caves area should support good hygiene.

  • Antiseptics and disinfectants
  • Air filtration system
  • Regular cleaning schedule

Ergonomics:  The caves area should be comfortable for individuals to spend short periods of time in.

  • Chairs – adjustable and comfortable
  • Desk Size – at least 60×30 with adjustable height
  • Cube Size – large enough to prevent claustrophobia
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