We have a new addition to the team here at Creative Mechanisms, Inc. David Sanchez has joined us for the summer. David is a mechanical engineering student at Penn State and has come on board to help us through our typically busy period. Unless your company is swimming with extra space it is quite a common problem to discuss where the new person will reside. We have had that same conversation here and have been joking that "It's all about U" or to be more precise "It's all about the U" I have located this company in a few different buildings and have arranged the teams into many different configurations. The arrangement we have now is by far the best that I have done over all of these years. We have our team sitting in a large U shape that is open in the middle. It has been an ideal configuration for encouraging quick communication and spontaneous meetings. If someone gets stuck on something or has a quick question they only have to spin around in their seat and ask the group their question. everyone else can spin around, meet in the middle, provide their input and just as quickly spin back around and continue with their work. It works wonderfully. I have never seen a team that communicates so openly and so often. I know the personality of the players has a lot to do with that and I will have more to say about that in a minute but I can't say enough about how important this seating arrangement has added to the success of our company. Adding another section to the U was not without complication. It would be very easy for us, and without any cost, to change the configuration but that's where the phrase crept in: "It's all about U" It may be such a simple thing but I know what a difference it makes. I hired a rigger to come and move a CNC machine a few feet and rotate it. We then had to have an electrician come in and move the electrical panel. It may seem crazy but preserving the "U" is absolutely worth it. Small changes in environment can bring about big changes in performance. This configuration works for us and I just can't see risking what works in order to save a few bucks.
I read a posting of an article on LinkedIn that I liked. (How Incivility Impacts NPD) It talked about the financial implications of incivility in the workplace. I agree. You can have the best seating arrangement in the world but if rudeness or incivility creeps into that group your team will fail to function. You need to have a group that works well first or at least gets along well. You can then nurture the communication with the seating arrangement allowing and encouraging people to interact. If they spin their seat around and engage the team with a question or problem and quickly turn back around with ideas and solutions its pretty obvious that they will try that again. If they spin around to pose a problem and people are rude you can bet that's the last time they will try that. As a leader you can't tolerate incivility. You can't make the get along either but you can foster an environment where they work together well and its comfortable and easy to ask for help and get answers.
I hope that David likes his new job and his new workplace and learns from this creative atmosphere. Welcome aboard.
Do you have a work environment that fosters communication at your company?