Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

The agile project environment

This chapter’s opening quote perfectly summarises the work ethic that we want to explore in this chapter. Henry Ford is of course famous as the proprietor of Ford automobiles, but he also invented the assembly line used in car manufacturing. The assembly line is an excellent example of essential teamwork, where each member contributes to the delivery of the vision. But almost as important as teamwork is an environment in which the team can work together.

A shared workspace improves interpersonal and project communication

We have already said that to improve chances of success design should not happen exclusively in one phase, or be performed exclusively by designers. We also recommend that design not be done exclusively in a creative environment. To make design inclusive, integrated, and continuous it must also be collaborative and therefore the designers need to be collocated with the rest of the team. A face-to-face conversation is usually the most efficient form of communication, especially when time is of the essence. Therefore, project communication is most efficient when the team members work in a shared space.

Where teams are collocated there is no need for complex project reporting tools as the wall becomes the project dashboard and the project repository. Design artefacts work best when they are shared and understood by the rest of the team. Rather than burying design detail in documents that no one ever has time to read, design artefacts in an agile environment are displayed on the wall as a constant visual prompt to the whole team.

Where does a project team call home?

Life on an agile project can be quite different from that of other project structures. To facilitate “individuals and interactions over processes and tools,” it is preferable to have shared project space where the team members are collocated. Ideally, this is in a single space or a group of spaces in close proximity.

Collocation is key

Collocation is a critical success factor on an agile project. It makes sense for functional teams working on the same project to sit together. So of course it’s going to make sense for cross-functional teams who are working on the same project to sit together. The key benefits are efficiency and quality of both communication and problem solving.

  • Collocation is key for cross-functional teams delivering a project together. Benefits include efficiency and quality of both communication and problem solving.

To be truly effective, collocation requires a certain amount of discipline from the team members. Complex thinking takes much longer when the thinking process is constantly interrupted or there are too many distractions.

Here’s a summary of the key benefits of collocation of cross-functional teams:

  • Closer physical proximity
  • Shorter feedback cycles
  • Less time spent traveling between floors and sites
  • Less time spent in less frequent but longer-duration meetings where individuals benefit from only a small proportion of the total meeting time
  • More rapid establishment of team building, familiarity, and trust
  • Cross-functional problem solving, rather than solutions that are biased toward one particular functional area
  • Tribal behaviours break down where functional groups are not prevalent

Disadvantages and problems with collocation

We don’t want to be idealistic. Collocation of cross-functional teams isn’t for everyone or every project, so what follows are some of the main issues that come up and ways that you can solve them.

Separation from functional teams

If an individual has a stronger sense of belonging to a functional group than to the project team, especially if he is in a minority on the project team, he may be reluctant to separate from the functional team. You won’t solve this problem by decree; instead, acknowledge the importance of the functional tribe and allow the individual the opportunity to reconnect with his functional group. This could mean letting him attend his functional group weekly meeting, which was established long before the project team, or allowing him one day a week to work with his home-team environment to reconnect and reestablish his position in the group. Be cognisant of the fact that if the individual is having tribal issues, it might have nothing to do with the project and everything to do with his own tribal politics. He might feel that his position or value will be undermined by sustained periods of absence from the tribe.

Working on multiple projects at once

Where certain capabilities are in scarce supply or where a particular functional role is not required full time on a project, some individuals may need to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Regardless of project utilisation though, individuals still need to feel that they are making a worthwhile contribution and that their contribution is recognised by the team. Simple gestures such as confirming or acknowledging a team member’s attendance prior to his arrival on the project site are worthwhile. Arrange an adequate space, even if it’s a “hot desk” for him to work at while he is on the project site as opposed to having him crash at someone else’s space. Confirm his requirements prior to his arrival—there’s nothing worse than having a limited window of opportunity and then finding that other essential contributors are unavailable.

Resistance from the functional group manager

There will always be the insecure middle manager who thinks you’re trying to poach his team and who doesn’t understand the need for collocation. First try reason and logic. If that doesn’t work, try to appeal to his better nature and reason that it’s necessary for the greater good of the organisation and its customers. If all else fails, then escalate. Appeal directly to the manager’s direct boss. If you’ve gone as high as you can go and he’s not giving in, you’ve probably got bigger problems than getting individuals to collocate.

When collocation is not possible

Collocation is ideal but not always possible. Just because you can’t collocate the entire team doesn’t mean that you should abandon agile. You can adapt and adopt and do the best you can with the opportunities and constraints that you have. There are many reasons why you might need to work in a more distributed fashion. It could simply be that parts of your team (functional areas, for example) are located elsewhere in the region, country, or world and the cost-benefit ratio of moving the teams to a single location is too high.

Again, the wheres and hows of collocation are probably the primary concern of the project manager, but in cases where you’re the person or part of the team who cannot be collocated, here are some ideas to make your project life easier:

  • Up-front collocation: If you can’t be there for the whole of the project, is it possible to attend the initial part (inception) where the team come together to build a shared understanding of the project? If you can’t have the whole team attend the inception, can you delegate to one or two individuals who will be responsible for imparting the key messages to the home team on their return?
  • Part-time collocation: If you can’t be there for the whole of the project because you have commitments elsewhere, can you consider part-time collocation? You can agree on the frequency and duration of your involvement with the other team members who need your input and the project manager.
  • Videoconferencing: If you can’t be there in person, can you attend remotely via videoconferencing? You don’t need any fancy equipment; a free Skype account and a webcam work quite effectively.
  • Instant messaging: One of the key benefits of collocation is being able to get an answer from the team when you need it. If you can’t be there in person, consider using the next best thing, such as instant messaging. Don’t rely on e-mail as it can take too long to get an answer, plus you can’t always see from e-mail if a person is actually available. If you have a complex issue, you can use instant messaging to invite a team member to attend a videoconference.
  • Collaborative tool sets: We’ve spent a fair chunk of this chapter talking about the collaborative workspace and the value of the visual wall. This is not such a great metaphor if you have distributed teams. There are any number of virtual collaborative tool sets available, such as Mingle from ThoughtWorks.
  • Collocation at each site: Where you have distributed teams it still makes sense to have team members collocated on each of the project sites so they have the benefit of working together.
  • Adjusted work schedules: You might need to consider adjusting the work schedules, especially if your distributed teams are in different time zones. This will ensure that no one team is persistently disadvantaged.

Stick with agile practices—you might not be collocated, but it shouldn’t stop you from adhering to some of the other agile practices and tools such as using a card wall and daily stand-ups.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020