Paul Ford, The Secret, Essential Geography of the Office:
Offices have their own mental maps. “Oh,” they say, “she’s moving to the 17th floor.” And everyone says: the 17th floor! And you know, being a social primate, exactly where you are in the organization relative to that floor. Offices all have their formal and informal maps, whether inside a bank, statehouse, cathedral, museum, school, or open-plan tech firm. I say “West Wing” and you know what I’m talking about.
I once worked at a company where the hypothesis behind customer acquisition was currently in flux. A couple times a quarter, a new concept would come along. With a new concept almost always came a change in the sequencing of handoffs between teams. This month, outside sales hands off to the onboarding team hands off to customer support. The next month, marketing hands off to outside sales hands off to onboarding.
It so happens this company had a large, somewhat raucous open office layout. All of sales, support, and marketing were in one big room. (With three different Sonos systems playing three different songs at any given time. Madness.)
It also so happened that this was a high-energy sales culture. (Are there kinds of sales culture? Someone tell me there are monk-ish sales people, making one call per day, speaking only a few quiet words, ringing a small bell, and going home for the day. 😆)
Thus, when the current concept of how customers were handed off from the top of the funnel downward, a few people would move the desks around so hand-offs happened across aisles of the office and not from one corner of the office to a remote corner sixty feet away.
The upside of all this apparent chaos was that on any given day, you could walk into the office and see the current hypothesis of customer acquisition. As long as you knew who was in sales, marketing, support, etc. or their typical posture (walking around talking on a headset, answering emails as quickly as possible, looking at marketing campaign mockups), you could tell what’s going on. One could literally walk through the funnel, from marketing to sales to onboarding (assuming that was the hypothesis of the day).
Besides the madness of open offices with multiple songs within speaking distance of each other, I think this is not the worst way to arrange a physical workspace.