In the past, I’ve not been shy about my disdain for private offices. I’m a fan of open office environments, and while I was at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we lived by it. No one had private offices. In fact, I often sat at desks in other business areas just to keep the pulse.
I have also always worked hard to ensure that silos don’t get created inside a company. “Cross Pollinating” can prove to be more successful than imagined.
The most obvious and immediate change is a big bump in company morale. Everyone’s social circles expand and department-‐specific cliques disappear. Team relationships continue to be fostered in the day-‐to-‐day collaboration, but suddenly when business areas are working together, and walls are taken down both physically and metaphorically, you see members of the IT team eating lunch with HR staffers and sales guys reminiscing with folks from operations about their weekend hijinks. Human resource gurus spend their careers trying to foster that kind of team spirit, and it can be done by moving a few desks, and ensuring teams work together to select key projects to work on, and in working on them as well.
Another unexpected by-‐product of cross-‐pollination is a major improvement in how the business parts work together. Without silos, stakeholders from different departments develop a much better idea how other divisions function. Fresh sets of eyes and different backgrounds bring new solutions and better ways of doing things. Its remarkable.
In one instance, I witnessed a senior employee from sales was sitting amidst compliance and operations people. Through the regular office chitchat that surrounded him, he began to hear of repeated instances of waste we’d never even considered. He reported it up the chain and steps were taken to remedy it. That’s the kind of intel businesses need to stay solvent. It’s also the kind they pay consultants top dollar to unearth.
Some employees might pine over the plethora of knickknacks and photos they use to create a sense of home at their desk. This mobility doesn’t preclude them from personalizing their spaces, it only means they have to cut back a bit on the teddy bears or pictures of their cats.
Office managers might balk at the logistics of a rotating seating chart. But we are in an age where the entire contents of an old school office can fit inside a laptop the size of a legal envelope; there is no real need for rigid floor plans. Office workers are as mobile as ever, and the benefits of untethering and mixing them are great. Add that to the benefits of teams working on projects to drive the company goals & profitability as well, and the silos will fall.
I cover a lot more on culture here but only click if you’re keen to turn your company into a magnet for great employees.
For more information on this topic, check out: Building a World Class Culture.