01 March 2010

Proximity Matters

The aforementioned MG Myles said something that really stuck in my head (well, he actually said several things, but I'll write about this one). He said:

Proximity Matters.

One of the keys to his teams' successes, as part of the whole "we work hard at working together" mantra, was to put people side by side. The user, the contracting officer, the engineer, the money person, the inspector... bring all these people into a common area, let them get to know each other and work together, and you'll find that they can get stuff done faster, cheaper, simpler (hey, where have I heard that before?).

That's one of the real benefits of the FIST approach, is that it makes proximity possible. When you've got a huge team, scattered across the country, it's virtually impossible to get everyone into the same room at the same time. But when you've got a small, co-located team, I've found that communication gets clearer & more reliable. There's more trust and respect. More willingness to help and compromise. There's better understanding and a greater sense of belonging.

These things all matter tremendously for system development projects, even though they're not taught in engineering schools.

One more time: proximity matters.


Mark said...

Nice post! Can't resist another Lean tie-in here...

a) "Gemba" is where the work takes place, and to truly understand and improve how things are going, you have to be there. Physically. Not remotely.

b) Even in this age of email, videoconferencing, and other cool technology, true information flow between physically disconnected people or groups is very difficult to achieve. In a development project, often the information *is* the "product" being "built", and one can observe lots of wasted time where the information is just sitting and waiting versus someone actually doing something with it. So co-location can be an effective countermeasure against waste, with a result of increased speed, fewer defects, etc.

The Dan Ward said...

@Mark - nice! I'm learning all sorts of stuff about Lean... :)