What is the optimal seating arrangement for a scrum/agile/kanban team other than next to each other.

I have a bank of 4 desks face to face another 4 desks and have the opportunity to move the team around as some have asked if they can.

We have a tech lead, devs and QA’s and a scrum master.

Any suggestions?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark Phillips Sep 9 at 13:39

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  • The optimal seating arrangement for a team is whatever the team decides it is. – vvmann Sep 7 at 9:23
  • 1
    This is clearly a polling question, and is off-topic almost everywhere on Stack Exchange. While you may be able to find studies that support various seating models, or contrast open space vs. offices or colocation vs. remote work, there is no canonical answer to this type of question. It was correctly put on hold, and should remain so. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 9 at 18:35
up vote 11 down vote accepted

There can't be a universal answer for such a question. The fact, that a team is a Scrum team or Kanban team or Agile team is negligible.

I go with an assumption that one (probably not the only) thing you want to optimize for is collaboration. Co-location improves collaboration / communication opportunities, but I reckon for the question it's given.

Then you may want to consider all sorts of aspects that boil down to individual needs:

  • Do they need more or less personal space?
  • Do they need more quiet space, which happens to be important (e.g. for some people in the autism spectrum)?
  • What about their expectations for temperature (e.g. who is exposed to a direct blow from air-conditioning)?
  • What about light (e.g. glow on a monitor screen is unhealthy for eyes)?
  • What are the patterns and frequencies of different people moving around?
  • How people feel about having no wall behind their back? It is our primal instinct that we feel safer in a place where no once can approach us from the back unseen, thus wall behind the back is preferred than a door, a window, or an empty space.
  • For people in front of each other: is the awkwardness of accidental kicking each other under the desks is fine or not?

Once these has been taken care of you can think of simple collaboration issues:

  • Whether people sitting in front of each other would actually be possible to see themselves or they would be isolated by a wall of LCD screens?
  • Is there a space for a discussion near a whiteboard?
  • Is there an option for pairing when the situation calls for it? And how often it may happen?
  • What are the most common communication paths and are they easiest to exploit? Note: they don't have to rely on the roles of people that much but on their character types.

In any case I would be far from overdoing it. Ultimately you could spend hours carefully considering each of the points above, but as much as people are respectful to each other and open enough to talk about their needs they should be fine to self-organize the desk setup.

In any case people feeling comfortable would yield a better result than theoretically "ideal" setup.

And the final thought, the sitting arrangement isn't written in the stone. You can rearrange it if it doesn't work for a team member.

Remote

Scrum lends itself particularly well to distributed/remote teams. On average, working remotely increases productivity. Therefore, the optimal "seating arrangement" for a Scrum team is wherever they feel like working from that day: home, a coffee shop, a mountain top, the ISS (if they can get wifi up there...)

Here's just one of many articles you can find on the subject:

A 2-Year Stanford Study Shows the Astonishing Productivity Boost of Working From Home

Instead, the robust, nearly two-year study showed an astounding productivity boost among the telecommuters equivalent to a full day's work [per week]. Turns out work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.

Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off. Not to mention the reduced carbon emissions from fewer autos clogging up the morning commute.

Oh, and by the way, the company saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing the amount of HQ office space.

That's exactly my experience. My personal suspicion is that a minority of workers experience gigantic performance gains (in my case, double or more) while a majority see smaller losses, and it averages out to a small gain. The Stanford study aligns:

More than half the volunteer group changed their minds about working from home 100 percent of the time--they felt too much isolation.

In this study, working from home increased productivity by 13% overall, and 24% among those who chose to continue working from home. Other studies have produced similar results. At the other extreme, another study found that open floor plan offices decrease productivity by a similar amount. The bank of face to face desks you describe is the worst possible working arrangement.

Remote is also a good way to attract top talent. From the SO 2017 Developer Survey:

When we asked respondents what they valued most when considering a new job, 53.3% said remote options were a top priority. A majority of developers, 63.9%, reported working remotely at least one day a month, and 11.1% say they’re full-time remote or almost all the time.

My suspicion again: those 11% are disproportionately rock stars with a lot of negotiating power. For them, opportunity to work remotely may substitute for astronomical salary requirements. (Compare the prices of an acre of land in the middle of nowhere, Montana vs. downtown San Francisco.) In addition to increasing productivity and saving money on rent, going remote may allow you to hire more and/or better developers for the same salary.

  • There's some vigorous debate going on here. It seems to have helped refine the answer and add references. However, the tone feels to have gotten overly aggressive. This strikes me as strange since the question asked for suggestions and folks kindly jumped in to offer suggestions. Am putting the question on hold. – Mark Phillips Sep 9 at 13:37
  • Remote work and colocation optimize for different things. And while agile frameworks often opt for colocation to optimize for communication (rather than individual productivity), remote teams are absolutely not precluded. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 9 at 18:37
  • Stack Exchange is for questions and answers, not discussion. In particular, comments are not for extended discussion. If a comment does not ask for, or provide, clarification on the post, it is likely more appropriate to chat or some other site mechanic. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 9 at 18:58

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