Just reflecting on a couple of cases where team performance – by design – depends a lot on sharing the same room. Sharing a room is good for productivity and builds on all kinds of powerful activities that happen in physical space. However, there are a couple of issues with that.
Operating in a shared space makes various interactions informal and their value implicit – everyone is there, questions are asked and answered, insights and artefacts shared, actions observed. However, this means that if someone is not in the room for whatever reason (ill, off-site, etc.) they miss important bits and don’t have an idea of what they have missed. Strong reliance on sharing a space usually means that there are not many backup information flows (to revisit from a distance or later) and that communication practices are not well articulated (so it’s difficult to change them or “move” to another – digital – format if the need arises).
Sharing a room creates convergence, but also thicker group boundaries. Developing shared understanding of what and how have to be done is great for getting things done, but also “locks” the team in it’s own practice. This makes it more difficult to change and to incorporate external influences. And it’s difficult to extend a group like that since it’s difficult for a newcomer to get “up to speed” fast and to bring own ideas to the table.
So, where a team room makes sense?
- projects that are more about getting things done than about interconnections
- projects with little travel or flexible work
- relatively short term projects, so needs to extend the group or change it’s practices are not that likely
Doesn’t mean that teams shouldn’t share rooms in all other cases, just that they have to make sure that they articulate their own practices and establish alternative mechanisms for developing awareness, communicating and creating opportunities for incorporating external influences.