What is the perfect office environment for agile development?

The first of the April Practical Agile Meetup’s  conversations was about the best environment for agile development.

Disney Castle

When you develop upon a star…

And the first thoughts were “It Depends”.  Different stages of the development have different needs. Discovery needs a space for discussion, Development needs somewhere to sit.  A fixed space is bad and teams ideally should be able to determine their own layout (taking into consideration Health and Safety requirements).

The Disney Brainstorming Method was brought up. This is a process for creating and refining new ideas using Dreamer, Realist and Spoiler point of view.  The idea is using 3 separate rooms where only the Dreamer POV is allowed in the first, only Realist POV is the second and only Spoiler POV in the third. The idea behind this is many ideas can be examined and refined without stifling initial creativity.

Whiteboards proved a great source for discussion, with many teams using them to partition off their workspaces in open plan offices in addition to their more traditional role as scrum boards and idea capture.

It was felt that all too often that everything gets written down and they can quickly become noisy and out of date. We’ve all encountered the lonely whiteboard in a deserted room with “please do not clean” scrawled on it. If it’s important why not take a photo and then it can be filed and shared as needed and the board is ready to be used again?

The group discussed the virtues of Physical vs Virtual  Scrum boards. Many teams used both which led to the question of which one showed the reality? The majority opinion was it would be the electronic version but that it needs to be used properly with team members burning down estimates and making sure tasks and stories were updated in a timely manner.

The duplication of information has a potential of causing confusion and in some cases the Scrum Master updated the physical board to make sure it reflects the virtual board.

Many teams have large monitors to display the team metric. One point of view was that this can be seen as a pure PR exercise to show internal and external customers that this is a high tech hub activity. However real time data can be very useful to the team where it is appropriate and desired – for example build health.

The need for a public display of information was felt to be an important part of the Transparency needed for Agile by making easily visible the progress and status of work to the team, stakeholders and other teams. Again this brings up the need to identify what is needed and useful to communicate to the wider audience as well as the team.

One common issue always seems to be noise level; My team has a healthy buzz, Your team is making a racket. Communication is central to agile. Tolerance and Respect for each other would seem to be the solution, with team members feeling comfortable enough to call out when there are issues.

As an offshoot from the main topic under discussion, an interesting method of dealing with tardy team members ( a general sore point for everyone) was suggested. At every meeting an individual is late for a mark is tallied against their name.  At the end of the week/sprint the team member with the most tardy marks buys the treats.

Clock Cake

There’s always time for cake!

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