What Makes a Good War Room?

If you could design your own war room for a software team, what would be in it? I’m talking about the kind of stuff that a company can provide, not the soft stuff like candy, etc. Here are my choices:

A shared, isolated space

Teams need a shared space to work, but they need to be isolated from everything else. All folks involved with the project need to be welcome in the war room, but no one not on the project should be in there. The buzz of relevant conversations is a good thing — the noise of irrelevant conversations is distracting.

Pairing Stations

Whether you pair program or not, you need tables that will allow you to pair when needed. This means desks that are wide enough for two people to comfortably sit side-by-side. This explicitly does not mean those horrible corner tables that fit into cubes. Those need to be banned.

I prefer the tables to be arranged such that you can see the other people on your team, rather than all sitting in a row. I think that keeps the overhead of spontaneous conversations as low as possible.

White boards

A team should have a white board that all members can gather around. You shouldn’t have to reach over anything to use this white board. It should also be large enough for a good conversations. And it should be erased often.

Unencumbered wall space

Teams need to be able to hang up Information Radiators along their walls. This includes stories and tasks, burn-down charts, and any other information radiator that is needed. Corkboards work well for some of this, as do giant stick pads. You also need a blank, white wall to act as a projector screen.

Speaker Phone

So team can take team-wide calls right there in the team room

Comfortable chairs

We sit all day. We should have nice chairs.

Have I left anything out? Please let me know.

— bab