Open office design
Yes, this is yet another post that talks about the organisation of an organisation. This is not my forté, so most of the things in this write-up are solely through empirical knowledge, some years of observation, introspection, my love towards spatial design, thousands of hours of cribbing over team silos, and of course the self-aware narcissism of a being a designer. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let us see what has been happening in the space design of offices and how it is known to affect work.
Perhaps we start with a Vox video, awesome as always. But do remember to get back to reading the rest of my article!
While we all embrace remote working culture, albeit slower than what we wished for, the one thing that co-location has to offer is stronger collaboration. Thus, advocating for open offices cannot divert from one of their core perceived motivation — collaboration. What seems to be that in an effort to bring people closer, the result has backfired and teams remain in silos and individuals are further mentally zoned out, and it is also an introvert’s nightmare.
With what I have seen is that today’s office design is not dependent on the type of teams that it will house. That, in fact, is the post-modern nightmare. Why should office design be agnostic of the purpose of why it is built? Factories are designed in cognizance of whether it will house an assembly line or a electrical wing or a steel pressing process. Fire stations are designed differently than police stations, than hospitals, and so on. Then why does software design get left out? If a company embraces agile, the design of the organisation should reflect that. Merely having morning stand-ups won’t help. What is the first thing that comes into mind when one thinks of something that people do together and share?
The pizza base is the platform that makes it all possible, the company. Each slice can represent one product viz. an organisation like Alphabet, can have slices like YouTube, Maps, Google, or calendar etc. Or each slice can represent one feature or function, viz. a company like Spotify can have slices like search, recommendations, player, or infrastructure, etc. It is like fractals, you could deconstruct this organisation it to the smallest possible extent. Each topping represents people. They are what makes the pizza taste good…err.. the Team complete! Finally, the cheese can represent the salary that binds everyone together! Hahaa, jokes apart, the cheese demonstrates how everyone is intertwined and dependent on each other to garner integrity to the product and thus the overall company.
So what do we get from this? Some amphitheater-ish approach to team formation that leads to space design.
Within each slice, there are people and roles that are indispensable for the product. They could be arranged in a way to proliferate their personal growth by proximity of fellow similar roles, or surrounded by how their aspirational movement could be. Example, a designer could be tightly knit with the product owner, while also being close to other designers from other slices/products/features. This viewpoint, as mentioned above, comes from the narcissistic lens of a designer that design as a discipline should drive the product vision, thereby being more user focused. That proposal is elaborated in a previous Medium writeup here — The user problem.
The designer, and the product owner and architect form the central part of the team that aims to drive the product or feature. The SME, research and the coach concentrically outside, followed by the developer teams. When you extrapolate this slice as a part of the entire pizza as in the first illustration, you can see that the roles lay next to each other. Thus facilitating design systems by inter-product designers, larger company visions by product owners, architectural and tech decisions by architects, shared codebase by collaboration of development teams and so on.
Of course, it goes without saying that the diverse the team, the better the product will be since it brings different perspectives to the product. Diversity in culture, gender, ethnicity, etc. all need to be overlapped within this amphitheater-ish design.
The periphery would house all scrum meetings, kanban boards and all other jargons that may come in. The center of it thus acts like a podium for official announcements, appreciations and recognition events and so on.
What do you think? How is your workplace?
Your company is a theater, hire amazing actors, directors, and facilitate them to work together, and show it to the world!
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