Iglus and caravans for more sharing and learning across teams and departments

August 18, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere |


Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Like many other organisations working in International Development Cooperation DFID has the challenge to enhance the cooperation and sharing between teams and to break the “silos”, to ensure the transparency about what is going on, to strengthen the sharing of experiences and the learning from each other. Always with the aim of becoming more effective and making the best use of the resources and to create – where possible – synergies.

By Charlotte Nager, SDC

In the last meeting of the expert group “Organisational Learning” of the learn4dev-network, we had the possibility to stroll through the headquarters of DFID in East Kilbride, near Glasgow. The working space of DFID is organized in open-plan offices. And in these open-plan offices we met the iglus and the caravans.

What are these iglus and caravans?

Iglus are positioned in the middle corridor of the open-plan office, that leads through the rows of tables. They consist of white boards, that form a small half closed space. As this gives an entirely white space, the metaphor of an iglu comes very quickly to one’s mind. Each team has one iglu at its disposal, where they conduct daily half hour meetings, discuss the work to be done on the day, follow up the projects of the team, identify where they encounter problems and distribute the different tasks. This process can for example – as one team is doing it – be visualized in a table that structures tasks, progress and blockers. This makes it easily understandable what is going on in a team gives a good overview of the tasks and works. Everyone in a team is aware of what each team-member is doing, and where and why they are blocked in some tasks.

Iglus SKU

Photo by Charlotte Nager, SDC

Make workload visible in the team

The attribution of the tasks – DFID-staff is doing this by putting the photos of the team-members on the post-its of the tasks – makes the workload of the different team-members visible and shows clearly when one of the team-members can not take over any new task.

Make work processes transparent across teams

All the information relevant for the other teams is put on the outside-walls of the iglus, so that everybody passing by can have a look at it and can also comment. Like this it is possible, that somebody from another team can detect possible synergies and can team up with the person responsible for this task – to share the experiences or just to see, what they could possibly also do together. DFID-staff comments on this approach, that it makes the working processes inside of DFID much more transparent and understandable for the different teams. However, sharing and learning between teams could still be enhanced, they say.

Shared work – shared memory

Inside the iglu more specific working sessions are conducted – using the walls for taking notes or visualizing the procedures. In every iglu is also a screen, by the help of which members of the team in the partner countries can be connected easily and can participate actively in the stand-up meetings. The iglus fully belong to the teams, there is no need to make any reservations for them. They form by this also a shared memory of the team, that they can continuously further develop.


Photo by Charlotte Nager, SDC

Caravans for spontaneous conversations

Besides the iglus several teams together share also caravans, small red sofa-corners, where spontaneous discussions or more informal meetings can take place.

Working out loud for more openness within the organisation

The iglus make the work of the teams more visible and more transparent inside of DFID. And they are a step in the direction of “working out loud”. Processes and projects in which one team is involved are completely open to other teams. This openness invites for comments, feedback and other experiences.

A promising way to enhance cooperation and sharing!


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