Follow-up on the new space

A while back, I posted about the space the patterns & practices team built in collaboration with the Workplace Advantage folks (here and here).

Today, two articles by others were brought to my attention, and I'd like to talk about them. First, Adam Barr posted an article with a number of possible issues.  Here are my opinions about them:

  • Private phone calls - We have a few options.  There are a couple of private "focus" rooms that contain a whiteboard, two comfortable chairs, and a phone for private calls.  Also, there are a number of folks who have an office around the outside of the area and do not use it, and they do not mind if folks borrow them for calls, private discussions, or whatever.
  • Socially unacceptable bodily functions - Rule # 1: Try not to be rude to your co-workers.
  • How to indicate that you don't want to be interrupted (the equivalent today of closing your door) We have successfully used sticky notes that say "Do Not Disturb" placed on the edge of a monitor or LCD.  Not ideal, but it works.  Of course, I have only done this once in the past 6 months.
  • Noise - Believe it or not, you develop filters after a relatively short time.  After a few weeks in a collaborative space, I was able to ignore conversations that did not pertain to what I was doing, and pick up on conversations that I needed to contribute to.  Also, background music helps.  If you pass control of the music around to everyone, and have a few base rules, this can work well.
  • The possibility that someone nearby can see your monitor at all times- You get used to it.  And you probably should not be using corporate resources to look at things folks would find offensive.
  • Where we put the accretion of Ship-It Awards, Rubik's Cubes, Lego models, conference badges, and other knick-knacks that people have strewn across their offices - We are still workin on this one.  I'll let you know when we have a good answer.

I know Chris Tavares recently posted his thoughts in response to Joel On Software's post.  And he re-iterates the same points I made, so I know I am not the only one in the group who likes the setup.  I'll add that I joined p&p just as construction was starting.  I gave up a job in another group in Microsoft where I had a private office and would not have to share it (like a lot of other folks) due to tenure.  I was actually happy giving up my office because of my experiences working in a collaborative space that was setup in a bloody hallway lounge.  If I could work in a shared space in a hallway lounge and have a positive enough experience to give up my office, you might what to try this crazy idea before you knock it.  And when you consider how many people at Microsoft have to double-up in offices, a shared space where everyone is working on the same project might not seem too bad.  Personally, I cannot imagine going back to a work environment where I need to lock myself in an office all day.

After working in the space for a few months, I can say that I am happy with the collaborative space, and everyone I work with is happy with it.  Several folks with offices around the outside of the space have volunteered to give them up (believe it or not).  We have made some modifications, and there are a few minor flaws with some of the arrangements, but I believe the whole re-design was a success.  Are there issues?  Of course, but they are minor issues. As a team of adults who respect one another, we deal with them as needed.

As for why we work in a collaborative space, I'd like to quote Darrell Snow: "Software development is a team sport."  More on that later.