you need a kitchen

Remember house parties in your twenties? I do, and one of the highlights - and one of the common thing between most parties - was that the kitchen would be the focal point of most gatherings. Since a lot of partying revolved around drinking various kinds of beverages, the kitchen offered itself as an ideal spot, but people would hang out there, even if for no other reason than the fact that everyone else was already there.

There's an analogy here to team communication in a professional environment. In my first job, you didn't need a kitchen. I was sitting with a bunch of folks (4-6 if memory serves me) in the same physical room and we were building software together. You didn't need messaging, or e-mails, or Jira or anything else. You'd literally just talk about the thing, since physical arrangements and team size allowed for that form of collaboration. But that was also 15 years ago, and building software was a bit simpler. But then again the software was. Maybe.

The world has changed crazy much since then, and, accelerated by the occasional pandemic, we've gotten used to working models that are flexibly finding themselves somewhere on the spectrum between completely on-site and completely remote. It's probably rare to find jobs that still expect folks to come in 5 days a week, but I'm sure they exist. It's also increasingly rare to find jobs that allow for full-remote. In my part of the world (Germany/EU), most arrangements these days look for some kind of Hybrid, with one or more days spent in the office, and the rest working from anywhere else. The problem is: Anything on the spectrum that's not clearly remote or clearly on-site is really hard. Unless, of course, you know where your kitchen is.

The really great teams I've been part of had a kitchen. They knew exactly what the right place was to share anything, to think out loud, to comment on ideas, to gossip and to share memes. They knew their kitchen. It all comes down to communication, and communication first of all needs a defined upon place and way in which it happens. There's nothing more chaotic than more than one channel for any given message, and it gets even worse when you multiply that by the number of people in a team or group. And make no mistake, communication isn't always only involving a sender and a recipient, or a sender and multiple recipients - in healthy teams, communication can also just be observed, to gather some context, to find if there's value in inserting oneself in a conversation and so on. That's why the kitchen metaphor is, in my opinion, so striking - transparency is in establishing a central place where communication doesn't only take place, but where it can also be observed, and rewinded. A transparent, persistent and rewindable record of the thoughts of a team.

So, whatever you're working on, make sure everyone knows where to find the kitchen. It's lovely there.