The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work

Third Installment: Increasing Collaboration

2nd Installment: Project Managers Matter  4th Installment: Reward Bad News, Question Good News

752925_blogA friend recently posted an article from the Wall Street Journal (Oct 8, 2013)[1] that stated that moving employees every few months can increase productivity and collaboration.

It supports my belief that the level of collaboration follows the inverse-square law in physics. The law states that a specified intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source.

In equation form: 

inverse-law

In English: The further you sit from someone the less likely you are to collaborate with them.

However, My experience working for two large organizations is that if you sat near a person in the past then distance doesn’t reduce collaboration with that person in the present. So the end result of shifting people every few months is that collaboration across the enterprise will increase.

How does this affect projects?

1.  Short term co-location of project teams is a good idea.  It works.  It breaks down the barriers and increases collaboration across the team. 

2. Long term co-location of project teams reduces collaboration across the enterprise.  The team becomes ingrown (i.e. resistant to ideas from outside the team) resulting in the team becoming less innovative and less productive.  

3660522_sTo increase collaboration on long-term projects it’s best to bring the team together during the initial three to six months and then send out the sub-teams to sit with others after that.  The fall off in team communications will be counter acted by the cross fertilization of the ideas that randomly happens in the hallways.  

This would also increase the understanding of the other roles across the enterprise.   If someone working on a CRM project is sitting near someone from account receivable, they will both gain an appreciation of each other jobs. 

 

I’ll be back in a few weeks with more.  Remember that the cleanliness of theory is no match for the clutter of reality.

 Best Regards,

Michael Hughes

2nd Installment: Project Managers Matter  4th Installment: Reward Bad News, Question Good News

 


[1] “The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work”, The Wall Street Journal,   Rachel Feintzeig, Oct 8. 2013.  Click here to read the article

 

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