3 things every corporate IT manager should do #2: Radical desegregation

Following on from our controversial advice to ‘cancel all your projects‘ our next insight from the world of the lean startup is surely somewhat mundane…so mundane I can hardly bring myself to write it;

Create a startup environment.

Managers, abandon your offices. You are a leader, not a bureaucrat. Retain them for times of need only.

“I need to do things without being disturbed”

Really? You don’t want your team to come to you with problems? I think you probably  do – so don’t wait until someone comes to you with a problem and a back-story. Be out there with your ears open.

So it’s the other people that distract you; the ones who talk about nothing but football, or their kids. Co-locating with your team can solve that, too.

There are times when you’re stuck with the spreadsheet/presentation/proposal from hell and distractions aren’t what you need. I buy that totally and that’s where disappearing into a dark place is the only way to get through it and that’s where retaining some segregated office space comes in handy.

Personally, I retire to a city library and turn off my mobile – stimulating, can’t be disturbed. Others find some headphones do the trick.

“I need to discuss things in private with my team”

I agree. So do I. Book a meeting room, or go for a coffee with them. You’ll relax and you’ll drink/eat together, which in terms of teambuilding is one of the best things you can do. The walk to and from the coffee shop/room can be liberating and insightful.

“I don’t need to be with my team 24/7”

Well, if you’re anything like any other manager I’ve ever met, you won’t be. In fact, you can spend your life in an open-plan office and spend 20% of your time with your team because you’ll be out and about with senior management, meeting people in private, zooming off to corporate HQ or whatever.

What about your team? Can they be desegregated further?

It’s possible you already have an open plan office with invisible walls. No one crosses these imaginary boundaries and as a result you don’t have a cohesive team at all – just a bunch of people in a big space. So shake it up. Move desks depending on who’s working with who – at Valve they encourage employees to literally move the desks. If you have space it might mean a central bank of desks were people can come together for a few weeks, or it might mean everyone uses hotdesks all the time.

There’s this guy called Mark Zuckerberg who’s CEO of this startup called Facebook. If it’s good enough for him…

(Note: At no stage have I said you need brightly coloured chairs, bean bags, pinball machines or even Apple Macs.)

The one thing that radical desegregation encourages is chat. This is a GOOD THING but people need to be able to document their chats, whatever they are. So, you need to:

Cover every wall with something to write on.

By articulating ideas they become an explicit, shared history for the team. It drives teamwork – and team building.

(In the corner of one of our whiteboards, the guys are scoring cheap coffee which is great. It’s hard to fall out with someone who agrees with you on coffee.)

So that’s part two. Creating the right environment. Here’s one of our offices:

Sabisu Manchester has walls covered with whiteboards

Your team needs space to write


Next week: Product/Market Fit.

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