Other Considerations

Consider two other factors when improving your Agile team structure.

Geographically distributed teams

Geographic distribution creates challenges for effective teams. These are discussed in detail in Chapter 7, “More Effective Distributed Agile Teams.”

Open office floor plans

A feature of some Agile adoptions has been to shift from offices or cubes to an open floor plan to support a higher level of collaboration. I do not recommend this.

Counter to expectations, a Harvard study found that open floor plans reduced face-to-face communication by about 70% compared to cubes (Jarrett, 2018). Research for several years has found that open floor plans reduce employee satisfaction, increase stress, reduce job performance, reduce creativity, damage concentration, reduce attention spans, and decrease motivation (Konnikova, 2014).

Some teams might prefer open floor plans (which is fine for them), but most do not. Indeed, backlash against open floor plans has been intense (Jarrett, 2013). One recent article’s head-line stated, “It’s Official: Open-Plan Offices Are Now the Dumbest Management Fad of All Time” (James, 2018).

In my 1996 book, Rapid Development, I summarized research at that time that found that the highest levels of productivity were achieved in private or semi-private (two-person) offices (McConnell, 1996). Current research indicates that that finding has not changed.

I recommend the following, in order of effectiveness:

  • Private or semi-private offices with open workspaces for teamwork

  • Teams clustered in cubes with open work spaces for teamwork and with concentration rooms (tiny offices) available for temporary use by individuals

  • Cubes with concentration rooms

  • Open work bay with concentration rooms

With any floor plan other than the first one, I have seen near-universal use of headphones and increased frequency of working from home—both are symptomatic of staff not being able to concentrate sufficiently at the office to do their jobs well.

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