Friday, June 26, 2015

Whispering Wednesdays

Moving to an Open Space

Our department recently moved to a large open space without cubicles.  We've been given large tables, chairs, whiteboards and a beautiful 8th floor view of the Toronto airport.

It's been an experiment in creating better face-to-face collaboration and increased productivity. For the most part we're happy with the move.

There have been occasions where individuals have wanted to have a quiet space to focus and get work done.  Our new office space was not conducive to a quiet and focused space.

Driving to work, I'd listened to Jason Fried in an interview on the CBC.

He spoke about how the modern workplace does not support getting work done. (Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37 signals and the author of the book "Rework").

Here's the interview if you are interested on "Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work":

In the interview he proposed the idea of just taking one day and treating the workplace like a Library.

We decided to experiment ourselves by creating a "Whispering Wednesday" on the first Wednesday of the 2 week sprint.

Experimenting with Whispering Wednesday's

I presented the idea to the team and they were willing to give it try.  We had a single simple rule:  Keep your voice down so that it would be loud enough for someone sitting beside or near you.

We even designated a "Librarian" that was given permission to shush the heck out of anyone that had forgotten the rule.  After the day had passed, it was hard to tell if the experiment was a success.  So we decided to ask the group if they'd like to try it again.  Survey Monkey came to the rescue: 

Having such a close tie in the results I decided to ask for more feedback in our 1:1's.  

For the most part, the teams for valued being able to speak openly and freely more than having quiet time.

However we all agreed to try it again, to accommodate individuals needing quiet and focused time.   There were still a few members that craved a quiet space.

So, for the next iteration we revised "Whispering Wednesday" to occur in a designated quiet room.  Instead of asking whether we'd like to try it again in two weeks, the question was asked "What kind of impact was Whispering Wednesday for you?"

As a result, we now occasionally run a Whispering Wednesday with a designated room... and have found a healthy balance between the needs of the few vs the large group.

What I've learned so far

Experimentation is crucial to a healthy workplace.   Equally as important is that we measure changes to see if they positively impacting our department.

And lastly, by measuring and sharing the results of experiments, the team is more willing to take risks as they are a clear part of the rationale behind the decision making.

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