As a follow-up to my post on Agile Leadership, I have described the 7 dimensions of an Agile Project Team and what it means to deliver results in an Agile context. This forth (out of five) post briefly looks into the Agile Work Environment (or Agile Work Space) to successfully support the delivery of results by the project team.
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done – Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.
As suggested by the Manifesto, providing the right environment will support a fast paced, entrepreneurial, flexible and autonomous culture allowing the project team to focus on their objective while enjoying their environment.
A few questions to assess the work space configuration of the project team:
- Are all team members co-located?
- Does the physical environment support effortless communication?
- Are team members within 10 meters (30 feet) of a white board?
- Are team members allowed to stick post-it notes to the walls around them?
- Does the project team have access to natural light?
- Are team members allowed to decorate their work space?
- Do the project team members have access to free good-coffee?
- When necessary, do team members have access to private rooms to concentrate on their activities?
Needless to say, the right work environment can have a significant impact on the project team’s performance. More specifically, the right work environment should support the team’s autonomy, ability to communicate and collaborate. It should support the use of the right processes and tools to be efficient while allowing them to enjoy their surroundings.
Agile Leadership is the application of the Agile principles (as defined in the Agile Manifesto) to the leadership of software development endeavours.
In addition to encompassing the processes, tools and rules of Agile Scrum, Agile Leadership extrapolates them to change how teams and projects are managed within the context of the work environment and new leadership paradigms to deliver better results.
Agile Leadership Model
Where Agile Scrum mostly focuses on the organization of the project team, the roles and responsibilities of the team members, the artifacts, and the rules under which the project team operates, Agile Leadership includes the work environment as well as the specific leadership abilities expected from the managers and stakeholders.
Agile Leadership is a fundamental paradigm shift with the objective of making the project team successful and the people within the team happier in order to deliver better results. The shift mostly comes from the leadership (aka management style) and the rules used to govern the actions, the behaviours and the outcome of the team.
Getting managers to become more Agile requires changing behaviors and to use a more democratic approach to management. More specifically, Agile Leadership requires to:
- Transfer certain powers to the team members themselves to let them determine how best to accomplish their tasks;
- Empower the project team through self-organization and commitment to results;
- Transfer decision-making to individuals who are closest to the activities;
- Demonstrate a greater openness to ideas and innovations emerging teams;
- Clearly define the desired vision and to adapt to the context of each team to ensure alignment with the overall objective of the project and to ensure cohesion between the team members;
- Provide the necessary support and resources to the project team so they successfully accomplish the expected results;
- Become a change agent within the organization by accepting and publicly endorsing the idea that the status quo is not acceptable and that the old methods are no longer adapted to the new reality;
- Systematically involve business people in the definition and execution of solutions;
- Adapt the style of management so as to use an inclusive and democratic approach.
In addition to bringing new concepts, Agile Leadership also revisits and adds to some of the concepts on which Agile Scrum relies. There is already much documentation (books, blogs, podcast, etc.) on the topic of Agile. In an upcoming blog post, I will add details to the areas of focus listed below and associate the underlying concepts with theories explained at length elsewhere in other areas of expertise such: as organizational behavior, organizational development, management science, and coaching.
A few days ago, we invited representatives from a potential customer over to visit our office. They are seriously considering a transition to Agile but some of the managers had questions with regards to what an Agile work space could look like. The potential customer is a large insurance company and like most insurance companies, people working there are used to a traditional (very traditional) work space. We could see they had some reservations about the open-concept before coming for a visit.
Their visit lead me to wonder what other Agile work spaces could / should look like, so I came up with the idea of launching a friendly contest…
The “Best Agile Work Space” Contest
I invite you to email me a picture of your Agile work space (martin [at] analytical-mind.com). In the spirit of sharing best practices and getting ideas from each other, I will post your pictures and your company’s name for people to get inspired. You can also share with everyone what makes your work place the Best Agile Work Space. We’ll even ask people to vote!
Let the contest begin to determine the “Best Agile Work Space“. Tell your friends to email their pictures.
To launch the contest, here are a few pictures of our work place.
Examples of other Agile Work Spaces found on the web
Windows are often a scarce commodity and are doled out to an organization’s favored employees. One of the nice things about an open workspace is that windows are shared. Even if the view is only of our parking lot and can only be seen across three messy desks, at least I can see the window and some natural light – The Ideal Agile Workspace | Mike Cohn’s Blog – Succeeding With Agile®.
Our New Agile Workspace – Our New Agile Workspace on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.
I started to respond in his comments and then remembered that it would be better to capture our workspace on video to share with others. I am hoping other agile shops will do the same. We are always eager to see how others are doing things so we can continue to improve – Attempting to Achieve the Ideal Agile Workspace | Derek Neighbors.
Ward Cunningham among others was a big influence early on in making it happen. The patterns & practices team workspace is optimized for agile development practices. The workspace features writeable walls, configurable workspace, speaker phones, projectors, focus rooms, and a customer room – Shaping Software » Blog Archive » Microsoft patterns & practices Agile Workspace Tour.