Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


I blogged about my distaste for traditional offices and working from home in the past. It’s not because I don’t think there is an appropriate time and place for offices or for alone time to prep for something or to “really crank a few things out” or even to telecommute to work in your pajamas. But it is because I think there’s a price tag that comes with it.

I just got the monthly leadership e-mail from Patrick Lencioni which never seems to disappoint me. I always read almost instantly, and usually several times, because it always is good.

This month is no exception.

Listen to what he says about office space design. I think it’s very interesting about how he believes that work spaces shape us and our thinking. This is not the first time I’ve heard this and Hybels actually harped on it some at the last Leadership Summit regarding motivating employees by giving them spaces they enjoy being in.

I really noticed the change from the “cubicle land” I lived in for most of my 11 years in Nor Cal to the boxed in offices we have as the norm at Journey. I think it hurts us in some ways. Not having a true staff lounge hurts a church our size too I think. No one even eats together on campus because unless you want to sit on the files, the fridge and microwave are not exactly in a gathering place.

Maybe there are other ways to combat this besides blowing up the physical walls in our buildings, but I’d sure love to do that in our student ministries department. If I ever get a chance to design a student ministry office space from scratch, I guarantee I will lobby hard for it- maybe I’ll even lobby for the slides Lencioni says we don’t need… or at least a zipline.

Here’s why Lencioni says we should consider it:

The biggest problem with traditional office space is what it suggests about the importance of individual versus collective work. By placing greater emphasis on privacy than openness and collaboration, companies unconsciously encourage people to see their work as being primarily individual. Whether we‘re talking about line employees in cubicles or senior executives in walled offices, workers are almost trained to seek out greater separation and space.

On first glance, this might seem understandable, even natural. Human beings crave their own territory, or according to Maslow, shelter. But is that something we want to honor at work? In some cases, the answer is ‘yes’. A few professions certainly lend themselves to individual focus and privacy and separation. But outside of writers and inventors and monks, not many come to mind.

Most jobs, and especially those that revolve around leadership, are social by nature and should be done in groups. Which means that the higher you go up the food chain within an organization, the more true this should be. And yet, the higher a manager rises in most organizations the more likely he or she is to be allocated an office, suggesting that his or her job is primarily about doing isolated thinking or planning. Or perhaps communicating via e-mail.

So, am I suggesting a radical departure from tradition, one in which executives sit in big, open areas with their teams, going into private rooms only on occasions when it is necessary? Well, I guess I am. Frankly, I don‘t see a better option. Until leaders are forced to interact with one another as a rule rather than an exception, they will continue to under-communicate and under-collaborate, creating cascading problems throughout the rest of the organizations they manage.

What I‘m not suggesting, however, is the creation of funky offices with coffee bars or ping pong tables or spiral slides that connect one floor to another. Those are gimmicks which don‘t address the real problem created by too much privacy and separation. Neither am I suggesting that restructuring our offices become some sort of protest against hierarchy. The reason to move away from closed offices to more open designs is not about aesthetics or rebellion against authority. It is simply about creating an environment of where communication and teamwork have the best chance to thrive.

(OH.. and since I can’t find this article online… here’s the addendum he put at the bottom: P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must acknowledge that I do have an office. However, I rarely use it for anything other than private conversations and occasional writing projects. Usually I choose to sit at a little round table in the middle of the large room where most of my colleagues sit, where I can talk to them and see and hear what’s going on in the office. Others do use my office when they have a need for privacy or quiet. And though my desire to sit at that little round table is certainly a result of my appreciation for teamwork, I must admit that my other motivation is that I am a raging extrovert, and I really like interacting w ith my colleagues.)

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