Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | No Comment

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Home » Featured, Lean-Design

Co-Locating Project Teams – What’s Effective?

Submitted by on November 24, 2010 – 6:05 pmNo Comment

by Dan Anderson

A well managed project team is productive and effective and adds significant but often unrecognized value to a successful project. However the results of a poorly organized team are very visible. If not managed well, the process of integrating cost, schedule, and performance across teams can derail progress and detract from design outcomes. Lean Design brings advanced tools and approaches to improve project team effectiveness, coordination and communication.  Innovative approaches to improving teamwork are increasingly important; both as best practice and as a means by which to focus on project value and reducing waste.

Co-Location

In addition to everyday project management tools, co-location is a strategic approach to using the benefits of face-to-face interactions to build team relationships, improve communications, and increase productivity. Co-location is the idea that effective work is best achieved when a team works together in a single location or team room, sometimes referred to as ‘the Big Room’. A co-located team can focus more attention on design quality, reducing errors and improving outcomes as a value added to the project.

Co-location takes many forms and should be evaluated on a project-by-project basis. In its most robust form all team members work together in the same room for the entire duration of a project. In a more limited form, team members come together on a regular basis for intensive working sessions. This raises an interesting question. In a recent conversation with colleagues from the New England Chapter of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI-NE), the topic of co-located teams arose. In reporting on a project that employed co-location strategies, the question was asked. “How much time was dedicated to co-location?” The response “We worked for several hours together once a week.” initiated an extended conversation on how this was different from standard team meetings.  The conclusion was that that co-location it is not so much a matter of how much time is committed, more important is the actual work performed. In this sense, co-location is effective when facilitating collaborative work focused on a mutual objective, especially when teams with multiple specializations are required.

What’s effective?

Managing and supporting effective teams does not have a one size fits all solution but must be carefully planned in response to the specific group and project requirements. Planning the process and the product at the same time is a Lean axiom. Support of successful teams must also take into account the physical locale and available technologies. The design of the physical space is an important consideration. The organization and furnishing of the team work space can be a strong differentiator between success and failure in team working capabilities.

With increasing numbers of team members distributed geographically, the importance of communications technology and virtual connectedness is rising. Often the cost of supporting a fully co-located team is not feasible and the expense of travel makes strategically scheduled sessions more practical. Hybrid spaces provide alternative approaches to supporting team work. Virtual support to face-to-face interactions can expand the effectiveness of collaborative work when the availability of co-located workspace is limited. Well-integrated technology into the physical work environment can greatly improve effectiveness and foster a sense of connectedness with remote team-members.

In the end, successful and well managed teams adapt and evolve to changing conditions and project requirements. When initiating a new project or team, Co-location should be an important consideration with an evaluation of extended, strategic or virtual approaches to increasing face-to-face collaboration and team work.