10 tips for the XP Practice "Sit Together"

09-17-2014 by Sebastian Schürmann

James Shore describes “Sit together” in his book as

Sitting together fuels team communication. This has impressive results, cutting time-to-market by two thirds in one field study. It enables simultaneous phases, eliminates waste, and allows team members to contribute insights to others’ conversations.

To sit together, create an open workspace. This takes longer than you expect. Organize your workspace around pairing stations, locating people according to conversations they should overhear. Provide plenty of whiteboard space. Make sure there’s room for personal effects and a place for private conversations.

Open workspaces are hard for some to accept. Get team members’ permission before switching, or they may rebel.“

1. Sit all the disciplines together.

I often see designers skipping this one and staying with their designer teams. Not so good. Everyone should be on the product they are working on.

2. Agree to common rules explicitly

Different people have different needs and desires. Talk about them and write them down. After a few weeks: rinse and repeat. make this explicit

3. Must not be in a room, but can be close

A glass wall often does as well. If I can see my Product owner (a role that requests own rooms very often in my experience), I can approach him.

4. Adapt your visual management

If you are doing hardcore Scrum you might dive into Kanban now. There are different disciplines and roles in the room, working on on one thing. So the normal Scrum Board most likely will not cut it. A good place to start is Kanaban.

5. Rituals! Rituals! Rituals!

I have heard of a “Disco Friday” where teams would play nice music all day long aloud on friday or seen hourly Nerf gun matches. These rituals help to firm groups and keep them in high cohesion.

6. Style it

Invest some work in styling the place. Some lights, LED ambient illumination, posters on the wall etc. will really help teams to form and stick. Make sure to provide a budget.

7. Clean it

Once a week/sprint: Clean the workplace and bring everything in order. Its a very short procedure for most places and it helps providing general order and cleanliness.

8. Have the Meetings together

Do not let the “Backend Guy” bail the Grooming when you are working on Frontend Stories. Do not let the designer bail as well. Everyone has to learn what the other disciplines do. When someone sits there and does not get it: Help him understand. Re-Arrange Groomings so that there are Stories of any Kind. You know the vertical slicing thingie? You should do it. And no .. neither the designer nor the tester will bail the Retrospective. It takes disciplined and willing teams to practice it this way. But in my experience: The seasoned crafts(wo)men will happily participate.

9. Have a extra room for “Discussions”

When different trades of craft work together, there is a lot of need to discuss things and talk about it. You will need a room for this since every discussion will be a interruption for everyone else in the room. Buy a set of high quality noise dampening head phones. I am working at a client here in Hamburg where you have small chambers for working 1on1 as well as meeting rooms that are general available for phone conferences etc.

10. Have more than enough Space

Even People with Computers need Space to work and think. Provide this. Don’t make cross-functional teams and cram them in a small room and be surprised you get a lot of complaints from the inhabitants of that room . If you cant afford space, maybe do not hire developers at all. There are regulations for how many office workers can be in a certain set of size here in Germany and I have seen several occasions where these laws where used as a common denominator of how many people fit in a room. This is not the way it works.

So this is what I came up with. What are your Ideas?

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