Steve Jobs, Teamwork, and Legal Project Management

 

Jonah Lehrer writes in Wired and The New Yorker about Steve Jobs using architecture to inculcate teamwork when he took over Pixar.

He insisted that Pixar's headquarters be designed so that disparate groups of employees were forced to come together for certain functions. He insisted on a large central atrium, in which he placed the mailboxes, and alongside which he located the meeting rooms, the cafeteria, the coffee bar, the gift shop, and even the central restrooms.

Good things happen when people on an extended team, or related teams, encounter one another in person. That's a core lesson that good project managers learn early, and bad ones seem never to understand.

According to Brad Bird, who directed the wonderful Ratatouille, "Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen." Indeed, Ratatouille's kitchen itself reflects the "water cooler" meeting place. Restaurant kitchens always have; no surprise there. But too often, professionals (e.g., lawyers) miss or never learn this point. You can succeed as an isolated professional... but you can't succeed in moving multi-person projects forward efficiently in this manner.

Not only must you find ways to eliminate your own isolation, you need to find ways to bring the team together. That's not a metaphor, but reality.

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