Characteristics of Highly Effective Agile Workspaces

by on June 30, 2016

A number of our clients lately have recognized the benefits of creating great agile workspaces to foster better communication, collaboration and teamwork. We’ve seen some amazing, inspiring, and effective designs.

Take a look a the spaces below. Could you picture your team working collaboratively on their laptops in an environment such as this? Imagine more natural, flowing conversations that might occur in such environments.




Believe it or not, these are both newly designed McDonalds lounges! Would you rather drive into work to a cube farm or one of these comfortable spaces? It’s our observation that the best agile workspaces today have more in common with modern coffee shops than traditional offices.

With this in mind, here is our list of top 10 must haves for a highly effective agile workspace:

1. Room for the ENTIRE team. Everyone on the project must be collocated to maximize communication and collaboration. Be sure to include some extra seating space for customer visits if you can’t convince them to be on-site full time. Bonus if the space can be re-arranged or reconfigured.

2. Open space. Banish those cubes and minimize the number of walls and avoid dividers of any kind between your team members.

3. Natural light. If you expect creativity and performance, never bury your team inside the interior of a building without exterior windows.

4. Pairing stations. Study after study has proven that paired development increases velocity and quality. Oversized or dual monitors with multiple chairs should be the norm, not the exception. Just last week we watched 5 members of a team gather together a big screen and swarm on a particularly tricky user story. Amazing to observe first hand.

5. Large white boards or white board walls. A must for collaboration and quickly communicating complex ideas visually.

6. Large shared displays. Information radiators are a must these days. The latest batch of 4k televisions can be wall mounted and most include built-in wireless screen casting.

7. Standup meeting area. Preferably located near the large shared displays, this space serves as the gathering spot for all agile rituals. Avoid providing seating to keep the gatherings short and focused.

8. Privacy rooms. There’s still a need for privacy for both business and personal conversations and activities. A good privacy room will have a small table and two or three chairs. A good rule of thumb is one privacy room for every 6 team members. Resist the tendency to turn them into leaders’ offices. They should always be first come, first serve.

9. Comfy chairs, conversation tables, and couches. Most everyone has a laptop these days and for solo work and collaborative conversations, nothing beats sitting in comfy chairs around a conversation or conversation table.

10. Kitchenette and snack bar. Keep a ready supply of healthy snacks and drinks and the team will feel like they are in a second home.


11. Ample power outlets. The more the better and consider their tasteful placement so you don’t have cables and cords running all over the place.

How would you rate your current working environment? Drop me a line and let us know or more importantly, start a conversation with your boss!

How Microsoft DevDiv Builds Visual Studio

by on March 6, 2015

This is an older series of blog posts by Gregg Boer, Principal Program Manager for the TFS project group. I love reading the inside stories about Visual Studio and TFS. Posting these so others can learn from their example of building a large scale project with TFS.

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 1 (Our Process)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 2 (Feature Crews)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 3 (Implementing the Process)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 3 (Addendum)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 4

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 5 (Tracking Progress)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 6 (Tracking multiple projects)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS - Chapter 6 (Addendum)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS-Chapter 7 (Tracking Risk)

How Microsoft/DevDiv uses TFS-Chapter 8 (Tracking Quality Gates)

How Microsoft/Dev Div uses TFS - Chapter 9 (Transparency in Reporting)

Jeff Beehler and Brian Keller also put together a video of how Jeff uses the MPT & TFS to monitor progress of the release cycle.  Take a look on Channel 9:

ALM Lunch: Implementing the Scaled Agile Framework with TFS 2013

by on July 10, 2014

I’m excited to announce the latest ALM Lunch event from Polaris Solutions. As you can tell from my previous post, I’m a big fan of SAFe. So much so, that I led the development of a custom TFS 2013 process template to fully implement the framework for Polaris and our clients. Here are the details about the event:

Organizations looking to go agile with Team Foundation Server often get the building blocks and infrastructure in place but struggle to achieve broad scale adoption across their enterprise.

The Scaled Agile Framework, abbreviated as “SAFe”, is a proven framework for implementing lean and agile methods at scale. SAFe provides prescriptive guidance for the individual roles, teams, activities, and artifacts necessary to scale agile and provide strategic alignment from the team to program to enterprise level.

The team of certified SAFe Program Consultants at Polaris Solutions have distilled the framework guidance into a custom process template that fully implements the Scaled Agile Framework within Team Foundation Server 2013.

In this free lunch time event we will provide an introduction to the SAFe, walk through the custom SAFe process template for TFS, and touch on best practices we have learned and applied while helping our clients leverage SAFe to take their agile teams to the next level.

Key Experiences:

  • Introduction to the Scaled Agile Framework
  • Overview of the SAFe Process Template for TFS
  • Tips & tricks for getting the most value out of SAFe with TFS

Complimentary lunch will be provided to registered attendees.

Seating is limited. Register Now!