2012-03-27

The best of the best: family-size team in a family-size space

I build great software with great people. We need a great space in which to do it.

For the last year, we’ve been experimenting with an open plan collaboration space. Instead of working as individuals in cubicles, we work together in a space with no walls between us. For the first six months, we loved it. Knowledge and learning were in the air, and they spread spontaneously amongst team members. Everyone knew what was going on without asking. Junior team members barely had to ask for help, and their skills increased dramatically. We coalesced as a very good team and wrote some very good software.

Then we enlarged the space and added more people. We started complaining that it was crowded. It looked messy and unattractive. Knowledge and learning were still in the air, but the space was noisy and distracting.

We learned that open plan collaboration space is great for team collaboration, as long as the team and the space are family size—no more than seven people, in a space that’s about as big as a family room in your house. Enlarge the team or the space beyond family size, and it feels crowded, messy, and chaotic.

I awoke a few days ago with the inspiration for better space. We played Perfection Game together, and we arrived at this:
I work in my living room.
I'm working on great things in a great place: my living room. I'm sitting in a comfy chair with my computer on my lap. There's a table in case I need to draw something by hand. I have bountiful espresso, fruit, and snacks nearby. 
It’s so much fun, so cozy and welcoming, that my friends want to be there every day with me. 
Sometimes I need quiet time, so we have nearby rooms where we sit alone once in a while.
Logistically, for a small tribe of about 20 people, we’ll need to split up into three family-size units, with one collaboration space each. Each collaboration space will be the size of a living room. All the spaces will be adjacent to each other, so we can still work together as a super-team. Each room might have a different theme: the living room, the art room, the game room, etc.

We’ll build out our new space this month, and continue our experiment for the best possible workspace.

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