The U-Shaped Cell is a concept from the Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing. Think of it like an assembly line bent in the middle, so that the input and output are next to each other.
Also, unlike a traditional assembly line, a single person works in a U-shaped cell. They do all the work from start to finish, that is needed in that cell. Organized around the U are the various parts and tools needed to conduct their job. For a manufacturing plant, that may be a bucket of screws, a drill, a lathe, and some paint.
This is one of my favorite analogies and approaches for DevOps: Put all the tools necessary for success, from QA, to deployment, within reach of a single developer.
If the concept of the U-Shaped Cell intrigues you, I’ve written about applying this concept to Continuous Delivery over at LeanCD.com.