There’s a logistical challenge that every office faces from time to time. The person or team charged with responsibility for resolving it are often recipients of a thankless task. But it must be done and it can be a transformative process. We’re talking about the dreaded office seating plan. Following our own recent experience of rearranging where our teams sit, we’ve discovered that once again, there are some great pieces of technology out there to help.

The challenges of the seating plan are more commonly associated with a wedding. But in the same way that you can’t seat warring aunties next to each other doing a reception, there are certain individuals and teams that don’t belong in the same area. They may have different working processes, cultures and routines, which inadvertently clash and create unnecessary tensions. Those who don’t know many people at a wedding often benefit from a sitting next to a sociable, well-connected individual; similarly new starters in an office learn by osmosis when sat near those who know the ropes. The context and terms of reference may change, but the challenge is essentially the same: how do we arrange multiple individuals, who could be grouped by a variety of common factors, in order to create a harmonious environment? Armed with this realisation, we struck upon the idea of hunting down some wedding software to see if it could be applied to our team reshuffle.

The best part, is that there is plenty of choice of wedding software available online and most of them offer a free trial. To truly make it work, we had to make certain ‘translations’: for example, every table became a team (the software we used even allowed us to make our own floor plan, so it resembled our office) and instead of individuals relating to each other by personal feelings, we related to each other by whether they did/didn’t need to work together, were neutral or had clashing functions. Once we had filled in the relationship matrix, we hit auto-create and were presented with the successful proposal for our new office layout.‘Why go to so much effort?’, you might ask. For us, the exercise was about more than just rearranging where our teams would sit Monday-Friday. At Reckon, we believe in continuous improvement. Instead of keeping team names and structures the same, but tacking a few extra seats here and there, we were open to the creation of new teams, to embrace change. In being open to bolder changes, we benefit to what can be accomplished with new ways of thinking and by new teams (in brand new seating arrangements).

So while your challenge might not be tackling the office seating plan, take a look at your task and think about the other contexts that it might occur in. While the software might not exist to resolve your specific issue, thinking outside of your niche area might uncover an invaluable tool. Similarly, not ruling out new proposals, could lead you to some exciting discoveries.