Are you sitting in the right place?

I came across this graph in Managing the Design Factory:


Wow! It effectively shows that as a general rule, the chances of communicating with somebody once a week falls off rapidly with the distance your desk is from theirs. Once they sit 16m away, then they are almost strangers.

I measured 16m from my desk. Sure enough – I almost never speak to those guys (what on earth are they working on?). I don’t know why I’m so surprised about how rapidly this falls off.

You might think that this relationship doesn’t hold in these days of email, videoconferences, instant messaging etc.? More recent studies have show that it does – we are naturally much more likely to exchange emails the closer we sit together. Of course, if we have a special reason to communicate e.g. we are working on the same task, then this relationship doesn’t hold – the graph shows the general human tendency for communication –  we have a very strong preference for face-2-face communication!

What can we learn from this? Office designers conclude that our offices need to be compact – smaller desks etc.! Not sure everybody agrees with this. Lean-agile practitioners, on the other hand, emphasise face-2-face communication where ever possible. Co-location (temporarily or permanent) is also a good choice. We try to have as many of the people who are required to deliver a complete unit of business value sit together (feature teams). We use user stories in the place of requirements whereby the written document is considered the “trigger for a conversation,” not the really the conversation itself.

So, are you sitting in the right place?




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