Friday, April 20, 2012

Pattern Language for the Standing Desk

Returning to  Pattern Language, my revered old bible of 1960's utopianism, I discover that there is no entry for "standing desk", "writing desk", or "workbench".  They missed it! Even though there is considerable anthropological evidence for the universality of standing work, Alexander and the others assumed that all sustained work is done whilst sitting on a floor or chair.

There ought to be a new pattern for what I'm about. It would go something like this:

Standing desk or workbench

In every workplace, there should be provision for close and precise work to be executed from a standing position. The resulting work surface would be from 40 to 50 inches from the floor. It would be deep and broad enough to accomodate one's papers, screens, keyboard, etc. There should be storage at hand (open shelves, 200) for papers, writing implements and hand tools, and a vertical display area for pictures, reference items and other objects comprising the personal shrine (two more missing patterns!)Secondary and rest seating should also be provided (stools, footrests or high-chairs) to allow for postural diversity during extended work sessions. 

  • The optimal work height for an individual would be determined by where the hand rests when the elbow is bent, forearm level to the floor (see waist-high shelf, 201). 
  • The optimal depth of the bench shall be the distance one can reach forward comfortably to retrieve a tool.

I'm copying out some of Jason Yip's post on stand-up meetings. He has figured out how to make this practice work, and in doing so has identified some of the relevant sociology and psychology of the standing desk as well:

It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Stand-up Meetings
Jason Yip, ThoughtWorks, Inc.
The daily stand-up meeting is simple to describe: the whole team meets every day for a quick status update. This short definition does not, however, sufficiently communicate the subtle details that distinguish between an effective and sub-optimal implementation of the practice.

People who have experienced effective stand-ups will generally know what should be adjusted to improve a bad one. This is much more difficult for people with limited stand-up experience to reflect upon. This paper is an attempt to alleviate this difficulty by describing the benefits and consequences of common practices for daily stand-ups.  They are intended to help direct the experimentation and adjustment of new practitioners as well as provide points of reflection to experienced practitioners.

Goals of Daily Stand-up Meetings
Summarizing several papers and references ([Anderson, 2002], [Beedle et al., 2000], [OrgPatterns, 2003], [Rising, 2002], [Rising and Janoff, 2002], [Wells, 1999]) daily stand-ups should achieve the following goals:
· communicate daily status, progress, and plans to the team and any observers,
· identify obstacles more quickly so that the team can take steps to remove them,
· set focus for the rest of the day,
· increase team building and socialization.

Perhaps the key value of requiring daily status is what it requires of the participants: daily reflection.

The goal is to get everyone moving in the same direction.  The stand-up is used to continually remind the team what that direction is......However, there is a different “feel” to a well-run stand-up that distinguishes it from an empty ritual. The original description of daily stand-up meetings called them Daily Scrums [Beedle et al., 2000] with an intentional association to the rugby term. The energy level of a daily stand-up should perhaps not be quite as high as that of a rugby scrum but it should still feel energizing. Quickness and high energy support the goal of setting focus.  Long, low-energy meetings tend to distract and mute the day.

When things are going right, there isn't much direction or facilitation of the stand-up. It tends to be more self-organising.  This is really more a side-effect of an effective, motivated team.

People  and representatives from various areas wish to know about and/or contribute to the status and
progress of the project.  Communicating status in multiple meetings and reports requires a lot of duplicate effort. Therefore
Replace some or all of the meetings and reports with the daily stand-up. Anyone who is directly involved in or wants to know about the day-to-day operation of the project should attend the single daily stand-up meeting.
But People not directly involved can disrupt the stand-up (See PIGS AND CHICKENS).  This suggests that another
forum would still be required for queries outside the scope of the stand-up.
Too many people in the meeting may cause disruption and/or cause people to be uncomfortable in sharing
information. For very large stand-up groups, it is even more important to followPIGS AND CHICKENS and TAKE IT OFFLINE in order to ensure all contributers can provide their input in a timely fashion. Not all forms of reporting will be, nor should be, covered by the stand-up format.  For example, overall project progress would be better communicated with a “big visible chart”[Jeffries, 2004] such as burndown, burn-up, cumulative flow diagram, etc. As a side-effect, some otherwise participants of the stand-up may be receiving sufficient information from the chart that they don't need to attend the stand-up regularly.
A chicken and a pig are together when the chicken says, "Let's start a restaurant!".
The pig thinks it over and says, "What would we call this restaurant?".The chicken says, "Ham n' Eggs!"  The pig says, "No thanks, I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved!".
[Schwaber and Beedle, 2001]

[Beedle et al., 2000] Beedle, M. et al., “SCRUM: An Extension Pattern Language for Hyperproductive Software Development”

[LaPlante, 2003] Laplante, Phillip A., “Stand and Deliver: Why I Hate Stand-up Meetings”,ACM Queue, 1, 7 (October 2003)

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