Agile Facilities: what a small exercise can force you to think differently as an agile coach.

Mid January 2017, I attended an interview meetings with a customer of a Global player and I got an unusual exercise: how to arrange a facility to make it agile?

My first reaction was WTH is that and then roughly I told myself to play this game, and I liked it.

So what means agile for a facility?

After this interview, I needed serious feedback, so I shared this exercise on Facebook and got awesome feedback from my pairs. On one day, I’ve got around 40 feedbacks that I can categorise in this way (sorry, have to summarise the content):

Ask the team

  • “Don’t design. Let people explore, learn and adapt. Give them some time to find out their own setup, they wanna start with. Let them be adults and don’t parent them, just because the IBM guys asked you to … “

  • “how do you get the team to take ownership of their team area”

  • “Remember the “self-designing team workshop” – let them figure out their collab setup, their appropriate work environment, their learning style the same way. Encourage “moving around” instead of creating fixed desks as little territories. This exercise is either a joke or a good demonstration, why the large ones don’t really get it 😉 “

  • “Although teams can give individual preferences and to an extent collaboration agreements but the scrum master has to do some interior designing to manage conflict if and when it occurs E.g. Open floor plans vs Private offices vs somewhere in between”

  • “Don’t mix up prescribing detailed practices (acting like a parent) and growing from first principles. Room setups will hopefully only follow an in-depth elaboration l why such a team wants to collab at all. If this is not understood, better stick to where people are coming from. A coach or Scrum Master starting to design work spaces should go back and learn the basics”

  • “Didn’t prescribe any; talking about conflict resolution. Kurt’s answer is pretty good”

  • “The correct answer is probably the caves and the commons where everyone sits and does pair programming in the open common area in the middle but has private rooms for when the bosses are doing deals on the phone or the rock stars are coding AI algorithms and need to concentrate.”


  • “This is why the term “Agile coach” is worthless. Your test is about creating a seating arrangement and defending it? Really? Sounds like something for an interior decorator. Better question: how do you get the team to take ownership of their team area react”

  • “Hey, we need to design the new space for the Viper Project. Who can do that?”

  • “Fine as an interview question. Interview questions are not for getting at an answer; rather they are for learning how someone thinks.”


  • “I think the chairs should be located on top of the monitors and the project managers should live in the bathroom.”

  • “As long as I had my iPhone, living in the bathroom could work”

  • “Architecture the layout following the agile principles. E.g Onion layered and circle “

  • “My first reaction is to design the work area. My next reaction is, ask the team! Get them involved, ask them to design their own work area. I bet they’ll like it better if it’s theirs than if it’s imposed on them.”

  • “My answer would get those people in the room and have them design it. I would have to go by some sticky notes and sharpies and add that to the list. “

  • “Love this exercise! The answer would be quite telling.”

  • “There’s some interesting stuff to probe into that go beyond space design: “the core team is about 20 people”, the siloing of technical/”SME” roles before they’ve even started, and including executive sponsors on the team. Definitely ask the team to design their own space…but before that, ask them to *design their own team* before imposing all these roles on them.”

  • “Especially if you find out they are all remote”

  • “So my answer of: pile everything into the center of the room and say, “Team – your first assignment is to organize this space to maximize the effectiveness of your team.” And then watch what happens. And not let them break the safety and fire codes. “

  • “Before I would try to solve the problem, I would point to them there are severe inconsistencies and ambiguities with the problem itself:1) there are “bad overlaps” of traditional and Scrum roles: a) sponsors and PMS “

On the recruitment

  • As a discussion exercise, I find it interesting. As the business I would learn pretty quickly quite a bit about the prospective coach. “

  • “Questions of this type can be very useful in getting to know the candidate and the hiring manager.”

  • “Correct but I saw an interesting and intriguing approach to agile behavior”

  • “It is easy to look at this on the surface and feel like the organization/person/people that designed this question do not understand Agile’s values and principles but maybe they are really looking to see how you understand the same by how you address”

  • “Isn’t that in a sense the great thing about this exercise. Everybody trying to design the room without group involvement misses the point of having an agile coach. But wouldn’t everybody who just say they would ask the team without on how they facilitate this discussion, be an ineffective coach too?”

  • “Hmm interesting guesses here. Now let’s assume that you have to Organise a stage for a project and you can have on site customers i.e. Not only developers. So here build a safe to fail Container facilitating the conversation.”

  • “I think it provides the hiring party with some great insight into the reasoning of the agile coach. Looking forward to your picture!”

This was a very interesting feedback from my fellow agile coaches and I would thank for their contribution: Michael Leber, Kurt Häusler, Daniel Markham, Atif Rahman, Amr Elssamadisy, John Miller, Djebar Hammouche, Howard Sublett, Pierre Hervouet, Linda M. Cook, Alan Dayley, Bob Sarni, Ralf Kruse, Astrid Claessen, Richard Kasperowski, Stacia Heimgartner, Jeff Lopez-Stuit, Alberto Brandoloni, JB Rainsberger, Michael Feathers, Griffin Jones, Mike Beedle, Dov Tsal. Guys you are awesome and I value all your comments… all.



Published by PierreENeis

Certified Agile Coach & Trainer, Organization Developer & Advisor Author of AO

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