Redefining The Conference Room

Conference Room Design

“Conference Room”. Just the sound of it brings a feeling of angst and dread. When was the last time you were called into a conference room and was filled with anticipation and excitement that something productive or worthwhile was about to occur? I think of all spaces in the modern workplace…the conference room is the most in need of a makeover

Perhaps new work processes will change how today’s conference rooms will function and be designed. For example, there is a movement occurring right now called Scrum which seeks to redefine and make general work processes and project management more efficient. If you’re unfamiliar with Scrum, the Wikipedia Scrum summary is definitely worth reading. Scrum started out as a process in software development, but is quickly being adapted and adopted by a wide variety of industries and businesses. The basic tenet of Scrum is to structure work in small chunks called Sprints. The key here is to keep work focused and to take incremental steps to making progress. It’s actually a very simple process…but radical.

Think of the last time you were in a conference room that has about 12 seats. Was there people present who were probably irrelevant? How long did the meeting last?…most likely an hour too long. Did anything of substance get accomplished or communicated that could’ve just taken 15 minutes? Did you really need to be there? Scrum sees the inefficiencies of traditional conference room meeting, and has set parameters for Scrum meetings (called daily standups). Here are some rules to the daily standup:

  • These meetings occur everyday during a Sprint
  • Only those responsible for doing the work is invited
  • Meetings can only last for 15 mins
  • Everyone needs to be standing
  • Everyone needs to answer the question: “What have you accomplished yesterday? What are you working on next? Are there any impediments for you accomplishing your next task?”

These are very simple rules for meetings that any workplace environment can adopt, and many companies are finding these simple guidelines invaluable.

So going back to the question, “how can we change the modern conference room?”. If I were the office designer, I’d ask if having a conference room is even necessary. It’s a space hog that much of the day goes unused. Can it be cured by smaller meeting areas that can informally let a team of 2 – 5 meet briefly? Does a conference room really need to accommodate 12 people, with cushy sleep inducing chairs all around? Can we just go with a small room that people can stand and gather around a whiteboard? My opinion is that traditional conference rooms promote bad meeting habits, and in many cases, can be redefined.

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