Preston Smith's Corner

When co-locating our team isn’t practical, what can we do?

January 2003 Quick Tip

If you have read our book, Developing Products in Half the Time, you will recognize that we strongly advocate physically locating cross-functional team members close together (within 10 meters of each other), which greatly improves the speed and accuracy of the voluminous cross-functional communication needed to develop a winning product.

Unfortunately, in today’s fragmented world, true co-location is increasingly difficult to implement. Electronic tools, such as e-mail and Internet conferencing have attempted to fill the gap, but they fall far short of the richness of real face-to-face conversation.

The trick to dealing with this reality is to recognize that even partial co-location pays large dividends. If you can’t totally co-locate your team, consider:

  • Co-locating your team for only part of the project (which should be the initial period – the first two hours or the first two months of the project)
  • Identifying the most critical communication partners, such as the lead design engineer and the marketing representative, and co-locating them
  • Co-locating all team members in each city in a single small room so that your team is at least clustered
  • Reconvening the team in a single location periodically to rebuild relationships and deal with particularly difficult, abstract, or political issues

For more help on overcoming the difficulties of “virtual” teams, see our article on dispersed teams.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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