Designing the Team Room

At VersionOne, we just got the opportunity to move to a new team room. It’s far superior in terms of size, noise level, and natural light. It’s a very cool, very lofty kind of space. To get things started, we applied the “design storm” exercise which is a form of concurrent set-based design, an evolution of the old school architectural charette. Special thanks to @uxdesignermike who turned us on to this tool at KaizenConf. Mike, for the unaware, is awesome.

You’ll find the opening I used to kick the session off below. I’ll be sure to post a few follow up shots as we get our space together in the coming days.


In moving to a new, more-ideal space we have an unusual opportunity to optimize for collaboration, productivity, and fun. To get this process and involve the numerous smart and opinionated members of the V1 development team, we’d like to engage in a process called “the design storm.”

We have a few goals and constraints going into this:

  1. We want to keep noise at an acceptable level.
  2. We want an intensely collaborative environment.
  3. We want the space to be flexible and permit promiscuous pairing.
  4. We need spaces for breakouts and loud meetings.
  5. We want stand-ups to remain unbroken (no walkthroughs).
  6. We want to pay attention to traffic patterns.
  7. We want to change it up every so often. Take that how you will.
  8. We want our continuous improvement efforts to be highly visible and easily accessible.
  9. We want the team to sit in the same area together (i.e. no cave dwellers).
  10. We want to leverage natural light the best we can.

I’ve hinted at this, but our main motivations are:

  1. Collaboration – proximity promotes knowledge sharing.
  2. Creativity – ours is a creative job. it should be easy to start designing stuff.
  3. Productivity – it’s easy to focus and get stuff done.
  4. Awareness – looking at the walls yields information.
  5. A pleasant working space is, well, pleasant.

Now, without pre-designing the space, does anyone have anything else?


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8 Responses to Designing the Team Room

  1. smnbss says:

    if you share spaces, disable or remove speakers on all the machines… nothing create more noise than someone listening to his favorite music if his favorite music is country music… I hate country music !!!!!

  2. Jim Cooper says:

    “Collaboration – proximity promotes knowledge sharing”
    and this
    “Productivity – it’s easy to focus and get stuff done.”
    are contradictory goals, IME. All too often, proximity promotes distraction.
    If you look around the office and find loads of noise-cancelling headphones, it suggests (to me, at least) that you haven’t got the balance right.

    And re the comment about minimising movement, well, if the health and well-being of your employees is of interest, you don’t want to go too far down that road either. You can’t sit in a chair all day – people in our line of work need to be encouraged to get up and move around a bit more, usually.

  3. Jesse Houwing says:

    When reading your blog post I remembered a post on JoelOnSoftware from quite some time ago… tried to look it up and lo and behold… it’s still there… complete with a lot of musings on your actual problem if you search through other posts on his blog…

  4. Steve Donie says:

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I should post some pics of our team room.

  5. Dave Laribee says:

    @Joe – Yes. These are the kinds of things that surfaced in the “designs”

  6. Joe Ocampo says:

    Also to minimize movement you need to highlight easy access to beverages such as coffee, tea or water. If you can get a fridge in the lab that will also minimize movement.

  7. Joe Ocampo says:

    This may be inferred from Collaboration and Awareness but you might want to explicitly mention transparency of process.

  8. Communication patterns should be obvious and immediate i.e. face to face.

    Movement should be minimalized. This means traffic around the facility, through the facility, and traffic required to obtain communication.

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