Deconstructing a desk

Agile furniture building

After the sudden loss of a friend to cancer, I took some time off posting on here. I’m back, so you shall have your daily dose of Seb again from Monday.

When redesigning this blog, I wanted more graphic content to illustrate my ramblings, and chose a picture of me carrying a dismantled desk, with colleagues behind me either bemused or aghast – feel free to provide a better caption in the comments :). So what is this all about?

One of my previous clients could be described as an organisation that attempted, for a while, to transform itself from the enterprise sclerosed big corporation into a fast and agile environment. Like many organisations, some people got the memo and got on-board, some trailed behind, and this included shared services, a.k.a. the people with the power to do things to desks.

The desks we were given had partitions, and I really have a dislike for those. You can’t talk easily to your teammates, they encourage more clutter, they get in the way of communicating. YMMV but I don’t find them useful inside the team, especially those half-height “we’ll keep your cats pictures private and force you have to dislodge your neck to talk to anyone but won’t protect you from the rest of the office noise” things, they’re just plain retarded. I know, I may be sitting on the fence on this one, but there.

So we put a request to get them removed. Then we waited. A week goes by, a second, a third week and still nothing. Eventually, one of the managers finally told us it could not be done.

Organisations don’t like to try things they never tried before, they despise anyone not fitting the norm they set out, and this applies across the board: to projects, people, and desks.

So we did what any good disrupters would do in a wannabe agile organisation: we analysed the problem by looking at how the desks were put together, discussed solutions, brought in the right tool for the job, and prototyped the removal on one of the desk, in a time-boxed fashion, to confirm that it was indeed completely feasible.

Once the first prototype was done, all other desks followed suit, and we had a much better time in that part of the office, being able to collaborate with our colleagues. I’m sure we brushed many feathers, but that’s what you do when you adopt agile.

As it goes, after I left, the partitions came back up, the team offices got closed, projects got cancelled, so who knows what happened to that agile transformation.

The morale of the story is, if you have trouble getting a partition removed between two desks, beware of the capacity of an organisation to become agile. Change where you work or change where you work.