It's Time to Agilify the Office
These days, engagement is what motivates employees, not perks: meaningful work, continued learning, career opportunities.
Welcome Agile, a burgeoning management approach that’s also a timely development considering that Agile’s fundamental principles resonate with millennials, the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce.
But Agile isn’t simply about processes and org charts: It’s also about physical space. A core principal of an Agile approach is to build projects around motivated individuals in an environment to support their needs and let them get the job done. "That’s not “environment” in a metaphorical sense, but a very real one: the workplace. So how do you “agilify” an office? Here are five ways, tied to key Agile principles.
1. Decentralize Technology: Whether it’s a huddle room, a pod, or a nook for private conversation, a variety of spaces for teammates to connect face-to-face and still access all of the digital tools that power the modern office is paramount to the success of being Agile. The days of massive, tech-heavy conference rooms are at an end.
2. One Big Room: That said, there is still a need for one place the entire office can gather. “Big Room” planning is a fundamental Agile step, ensuring that everyone hears company goals clearly and firsthand. Ideally, such an all-hands meeting would occur at a minimum of every month. Dunbar’s number theorizes that 130 is the ideal group number for building and maintaining relationships; some agile organizations try to cap locations around that number.
3. Scrum Space: Daily scrums are opportunities for a team to gather and maintain an ongoing dialog, a time when updates are given and goals reassessed. This could be a fundamental aspect of the team’s workspace (see #4, below) or an immediately adjacent breakout space. Optimum Group Size Theory promotes 5-7 people per team for optimal speed, communication, and commitment.
4. Kit of Parts: Providing a physical space that each team can manipulate to best fit its needs is essential. The cubicle grid is dead: now it’s about movable desks, tables, and whiteboards, a variety of furniture types, and flexibility. Customization creates a sense of ownership in workers. Developing a set of standardized options allow employee choice, but manages chaos and Facilities’ headaches. This flexibility helps tackle the Allen Curve, which demonstrates a breakdown in technical communication with increased physical separation.
5. Trust: The old office space was about rigidity and order, a C-level imposition of control. Agile puts trust at the center of things, which is clear from the points above. When a workplace gives people and teams the freedom to use space in ways that are best for them to operate, that’s a fundamental reflection of management that believes in its employees.