Re: IBM is having a Yahoo moment: No more working from home

Subject: Re: IBM is having a Yahoo moment: No more working from home
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>
To: Helen OBoyle <hoboyle -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2017 15:23:56 +0800

It really was the sort of book that a friend or colleague would hand to you and say, "You should read this." Then you would hand it to a friend or colleague and say, "You should read this."

To be fair, the modern workplace has many options that make it easier to work within the limitations of both open plan and hard-walled offices. In 1987 or 1997 we didn't have Skype, GoToMeeting, Slack, IM, Wi Fi, giant TVs, noise-canceling headphones, stand-up meetings, wikis, and so on. You can't make open plan good, but you can make it better.


ps. In my current contract I have the 'last guy on' spare desk near the front door. It's literally impossible for potential reviewers and SMEs to get to the kitchen, toilet, meeting room or their desk without passing under my steely gaze. So while everyone else's productivity suffers, open plan is great for mine :^)

On 11/02/2017 12:40 PM, Helen OBoyle wrote:

Ahhh, yes, Peopleware! Having a copy of that on my bookshelf in the late 1980's gained me respect from Those Who Also Knew.

A really good environment I worked in, once upon a time, had 1 and 2 person offices around an open area (which had previously contained cubes when the org planned to expand, but then the owner realised the business didn't quite have the potential it had been represented to have, so plans to expand were quashed and the cubes dismantled). When our team needed to meet, either all of us or a few of us, we'd congregate in the open area for a standing meeting, often at a white board. When we needed to be by ourselves, we'd go to our offices. It was sort of a dorm/quad model, where individuals had some degree of privacy, but also had a ready made space for socialising/collaborating.

It's sort of the reverse of what's going on today, as meetings are assumed to be super-secret business requiring doors that shut and everyday work is something that should be completely out in the open. What it provided was a few things:
1) Individuals who wanted quiet could go sit in their little boxes and work, and shut the door if they didn't want to hear what was going on outside in the collaboration space.
2) Individuals who didn't want quiet had a place immediately outside their little box where they could congregate with inhabitants of neighbouring boxes.
3) Individuals could keep up with meetings even when they had to work just by leaving their door open and hearing the convo, and either chime in or bookmark an idea for follow-up if they heard anything useful.
4) If the team decided a few weeks of working withing arms-length of each other was required, desks could be moved into that area for a while.

THAT, to me, provided optimal flexibility for the workgroup, along with autonomy (well, not exactly, but the manager was in another city and it was a case of asking forgiveness when caught with desks out in the open area, rather than permission) for the TEAM ITSELF to organise optimally. This may have worked primarily because the team had neither strong introverts or strong extroverts who were incapable of working in one or the other. We were all pretty much flexible, as long as it fit our current deliverable responsibilities.

It was the kind of team-accessibility that today's open plan and low-walled cube farm offices are supposed to facilitate, but with the productivity up side of the employee having easy, realistic control over the ability to have quiet and non-interruption when required.

Kind regards,


On Sat, Feb 11, 2017 at 3:10 PM, Meryl R. Cohen <merylster -at- gmail -dot- com <mailto:merylster -at- gmail -dot- com>> wrote:

My personal preference is for a private or semi-private office.
Second is
open-plan with pods divided by low (3 ft) walls. I find
traditional cubies
to be the worst: No sound privacy, but felt cut off from people. I
interviewed once at a place where everyone had their own private
but the walls were all glass. Not sure how I would have liked that.


On Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:56 PM, Stuart Burnfield
<slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au <mailto:slb -at- westnet -dot- com -dot- au>>

> There's a classic book that goes over exactly this ground:
> Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, by Tom DeMarco and
> Lister
> <
> It's short, highly relevant to IT teams, very readable, hugely
> It says exactly what Lin and Chris say below. The sad thing is
that it was
> first published in 1987. This stuff was known 30 years ago.
> If you've ever had an uneasy feeling about a workplace, Peopleware
> probably describes your nameless fear. As I skim the TOC it's
clear how
> many of their concepts I've internalised: flow time, "make a
> sell a cheeseburger", no such thing as overtime, the high cost
of turnover,
> "hiring a juggler", "Paging Paul Portulaca!"... it's so vivid,
once you've
> read it you can never go back to not knowing.
> IIRC they say that there never was any evidence to show that
"open plan"
> was good for productivity. Literally the only benefits are:
> 1. It's cheaper.
> 2. It's more flexible (easier to move partitions than walls--in
> words, cheaper).
> In larger organizations the person who decides to go open plan
> has zero experience working in IT or engineering teams. They
decide it's
> worth saving $X on fit out even at the expense of $Y in lost
> They do this without knowing what "Y" is. /It's possible they
don't even
> know there is a Y./
> Stuart

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Re: IBM is having a Yahoo moment: No more working from home: From: Stuart Burnfield
Re: IBM is having a Yahoo moment: No more working from home: From: Meryl R. Cohen
Re: IBM is having a Yahoo moment: No more working from home: From: Helen OBoyle

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