INside Track: In The Mix

With the focus on cubes and workspace this week, I’d like to throw out to you all the notion of managers joining in on the open space model. Having had a separate office, and now working in the loft studio with the entire team, my personal preference is for the latter.

I had mixed feelings, when I first discovered I was going be thrown into the mix. Where would I have private one-on-ones? How would I deal with vendors and business colleagues on the phone with all the background noise? What about my valued (but more personally focused) alone time? And, most importantly, would I be able to maintain a professional manager/report relationship with the team?

Having worked this way for the past year and a half, I can honestly say that the positives easily outweigh the negatives. I use a private meeting room for one-on-ones, the group isn’t exactly screaming and yelling all the time so phone calls are rarely a problem, I’ve found I can easily tune out the background noise when I need to focus on a strategic exercise and I believe I’ve managed to maintain a professional relationship with all my reports.

The plusses include:

  • A deeper more personal bond with my team (resulting in increased loyalty)
  • A better sense of how our production process plays out and, with this knowledge, the ability to better address breakdowns in production
  • A better sense of the interpersonal dynamics of the group
  • Opportunities to more easily and informally address the group as whole for knowledge sharing and communication of new policies and procedures

I’m a convert, and to all you sequestered managers out there, I hope you’ll consider jumping onto the playing field.

4 thoughts on “INside Track: In The Mix

  1. Kevin

    I have to echo your sentiments. When I was promoted to CD several years ago, I was offered a private office but turned it down for just the reasons you cited. The personal interaction with my team is key to our development and the success of our projects. There are enough imaginary walls threatening collaboration without throwing real ones into the mix as well.

    We also tore down the cubes and have a “bull pen” layout in our department. One unforeseen positive is that when an internal customer wants to meet with our team about a project, they invariably want to do it in our space, because the open environment contributes to the collaborative spirit.

  2. Todd Olsen

    Andy and Kevin,
    I completely agree with your statements in that an open environment benefits all. I’m also working in a bullpen situation. There are two total creatives among a team of ten marketers. Myself and my intern. The one problem that we have is what I’m calling the “Boss Button”, meaning if there is a visual struggle between designers the boss always gets involved. Any suggestions on how to tell the director that we’re not ready to show our work?

  3. Kevin

    I guess I’m pretty lucky in that I have a real good relationship with my boss (VP Marketing), so a direct communication of “We’re not ready to show proofs yet” suffices. It sounds like that may not be the case in your office.

    Your boss may be interceding because he perceives these “struggles” as problems that require his attention. Maybe there’s a way to help your boss understand that these “visual struggles” are actually a natural part of the creative process and help improve the end product.

    It all depends on what kind of relationship and communication style you have with your boss. Hope that helps.

  4. Andy Epstein

    Kevin nailed it. The trick is to find what’s motivating your boss and then figure out how to address it. If it’s altruistic and, as Kevin mentioned, he’s misinterpreting your discussions as a call for help, then you’re in a good position to convince him that it’s all good and you’re not at a point where you need his input yet.

    If it’s more about his need to control and micromanage your projects, then the best approach may be to have certain conversations out of earshot. The alternative would be to schedule specific review times for the project with your boss so he’ll feel comfortable that he’s being provided avenues for his input.