3 Essential Office Requirements for Successful Self-Management

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar January 29, 2017

An important point I mentioned in my previous blog post about the process towards a self-managing organisation, is the need to implement your vision down to the details. By that I mean that you should not only focus on things that are a primary part of your business such as redefining roles, teams and processes: less obvious factors can also play a very important facilitating role and support your new culture and method. An important part of this is the construction and design of the spaces in which your people work; how can you mak

Partly because we acquired a lot of new employees after the merger, Computest moved to a new building with 1300 m2 of empty work space in November last year. A perfect opportunity to start with a clean slate. It also gives you a chance to think very carefully about how to optimally configure spaces in order to remove all hierarchy and create an ecosystem within which self-managing teams can work as pleasantly as possible.

No one at the head of a table

For example, our office has a lot of glass and open spaces with blocks where the teams sit. This offers maximum transparency. Beyond that, all the furniture has enough room for 12 people (the maximum size of a team) – the conference tables, office islands, kitchen tables and even picnic tables on our terrace. In our kitchen, we have had two large ovens installed so that exactly 12 pizzas can be prepared at the same time. All the tables we have are oval rather than rectangular. This is no coincidence – it means that no one can ever sit at the head end. Everyone has an equal place at the table, just as everyone is equal within the organisation. It may sound strange, but we have given this a lot of thought.

The teams do have fixed places, but no one has their own room or office. Should it prove necessary, teams can of course find somewhere more secluded to work. For example, the ‘Sit Down Room’, a room furnished mainly with sofas and bean bags. Here the idea is that you don’t use any electronics, so that you can give your full attention to the meeting. We also regularly hold interviews in that room in order to see how comfortable the person feels in an informal business environment like that. There is also a ‘War Room’ without windows that a team can retreat to and enjoy complete privacy. And we have eight ‘quiet areas’ with a desk, where you can sit alone or with a few colleagues if you want to work undisturbed.

Standing tables and a game room

You’ll also find a lot of standing tables in our building plus a games room. It’s all designed to facilitate an informal atmosphere and culture. You sometimes see people nervously ‘alt-tabbing’ when someone walks past just as they were checking out Nu.nl or Facebook. But no one can work 8 hours a day with complete concentration, so I think it makes perfect sense that people should occasionally look for a distraction. Of course, I would prefer them to walk away from their desks and enjoy a game of table tennis. After a long meeting, I frequently enjoy knocking a ping-pong ball around to relax my mind. Relaxing together during work also generates connection and commitment.

Self-management is not about the form

For me, self-management is not about the form in which it is implemented, like Kanban or Scrum. That must never become an end in itself. I do consider it very important that our entire organisation works in an agile way. This involves the teams working together really intensively in short iterations and adopting a flexible attitude. Part of that is having frequent contact with one another. That need not necessarily be in an hour-long meeting, it could also just be a short chat while playing a game or just quietly sit on the roof terrace.

I want to make sure our office is a nice place to be and that people feel at ease here. Everyone has their own key, to make sure no one is left waiting outside a locked door if they are first to arrive. That way, everyone has a little bit of ownership.

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Hartger Ruijs is founder and CEO of Computest Group BV. Computest specializes in performance and security testing for (online) applications. Hartger is regularly posting on Computest's transition towards a self-steering organization. These posts will be published on Corporate Rebels' blog to provide followers insights into the ongoing transition.

Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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