The Great Critical Mass Shuffle

Not quite five and a half years ago, Critical Mass moved into our current building. It was a monumental exercise that required a lot of forethought, planning, and organization. When we moved into the then-new building, we separated into our departments: Project Management (along with Reporting and some account services) on the first floor, Technology (and internal support) on the second floor, Creative on the third floor, with Administration (and some executives) on the fourth floor. Dewi and the Bistro were in the basement.

That’s pretty much how it was from the moment we got in the building. We’ve moved around a bit within the floors (I changed seats three times, landing in the same desk space twice), but generally kept the department separation.

That was until a couple of weeks ago, when the Leadership Team (which, apparently, I’m loosely attached to now) called a meeting to announce the next great move. My first thought was that we were going to move buildings again. We know we’re running low on available space in this building. We need more people all the time, and are running out of places to put them. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to lay siege to one of the surrounding buildings and take the space for our own. Personally, I’m all for buying up the self storage building on the next block and installing a connecting walkway.

But this wasn’t about running out of space. Well, not directly, anyway. This was Phase 1 of making more effective use of our space. And the first step was to do something that many of us veterans have talked about for years: reorganizing the floors so the project teams sit together. I was a little surprised to hear this, as I honestly thought that the idea had been so thoroughly squashed as to not even render a single drop of whine. We were outlined the almost laughably short timeline under which it would take place, and that no-one would officially know until the week before it took place.

(The irony was that most people already knew — even before I was told, so I gather. It was one rumour I hadn’t heard before hearing official notice.)

The trickiest part was that we had to sort out the seating plans so administration could rearrange phones and network connections. (The sad part is most people around here seem to only grudgingly acknowledge the Herculean tasks that Administration regularly pulls off without anyone noticing.) “Tricky” because most people had their own thoughts of where they wanted to sit. The task of setting the seating plan, however, would be left to the team leads, to minimize the inevitable cacophony over who was sitting where.

Originally, my business unit was to stay on the second floor. Fine for me, as I’ve been there for years. Creative, however, wasn’t so keen on that. As a result of discussions with Mich and Jason, we figured out a plan that would work … and would give me one of the choicest seats on the floor. (I can rationalize nearly anything. Especially when I can get something good out of it.)

Lest you think I purposely positioned myself to get the best seat, here’s the reality: I wanted to merge our team members, putting PM next to developer next to designer. In my oh-so-educated [insert sarcasm here] view, it was the best way to try and get projects running, by letting people learn from each other across disciplines and departments. That’s what I wanted … but I knew it was going to be a hard sell. Mostly because I’m the only one who wanted it. So we grouped by department, and the most convenient grouping happened to put the Technology group into the southwest corner. Looking at the desk plan, it just made sense to put me in the corner.

Then we had a business unit rearrangement. Dell’s been getting bigger and bigger, and finally (like Mercedes-Benz and Rolex before it) be ejected into its own business unit. But it wasn’t just as simple as moving an account. It meant people had to be moved to handle the movement of the other accounts. It meant the Rolex team had to move — we were bumped to the third floor. And we had to make a very quick replanning to handle the team’s movement up one floor. As it stands, we more-or-less moved straight up one floor. And due to fortunate happenstance, I managed to snag the corner desk again. Two windows. Goregous view (compared to what I used to have, anyway). And way too much space.

When we left on Friday, everything packed up and labelled, I questioned whether or not this move would go truly smoothly. My key concern was for things like the side tables. They’re hot property around the office, and as soon as one becomes available it’s snapped up. Sure enough, when I arrived on Monday, it was clear that monkey business had ensued in the hours before I arrived. I have no idea exactly what happened, but I sure heard about it.

The other thing I’m sure I’m going to hear about is the extra space I’ve ended up with. There’s a good desk’s worth of space between my desk and Jim and Scott’s. Someone’s gonna complain about that, I know. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having someone else in there. It’s too open. I just don’t know who would want that space. Frankly, I’m amazed Jason let me have it. He claimed it was a concession for us having to come to the third floor. Like moving into the best floor of the building is a concession into itself.

Overall, the move is a good thing (irrespective of my desk location). I think it’ll help the teams work better, even if it means departments suffer a bit as a result. But since our end product is work for our clients, not for ourselves, I think it’ll go to help the movement. But like many things, only time will tell.