“What would you do if this was your company?”
This is a very powerful question leaders should ask their team and one of the most powerful insights a leader can uncover. It not only will show you where team members stand in relation to your initiatives so you know how you need to reframe your vision so they are in alignment, but it might also re-align your vision!
This is exactly the question my boss asked me one day as I was presenting a problem to him that I had just discussed with my team as well as the solutions that we had come up with. Let’s see how you would fair in this situation and the effect it would have on you.
The Situation: A company re-organization has led to a merger of 2 teams that will now consist of 23 individuals.
The Original Team: Project Managers, Product Managers. The Team Additions: Developers
The Objective: To have the team all sit together so that we can build a culture together, as well as collaborate and communicate more.
The Problem: Not enough space for the 15 new developers to sit in the designated area for the digital team. At the moment they are sitting with their old group at their cubicles. To add to the problem, there is very limited extra space anywhere in the building for a team of 23 to sit.
Background: The 2 teams currently sit on different floors and there has been a lack of communication between them in the past partly due to the isolation. The developers sit at cubicles with high walls and keep to themselves. The CDO mucky muck strongly prefers the open-concept, start-up style environment. The developers, however, like quiet and have expressed no interest in working in an open-concept style environment like how the downstairs team is configured. As a result, the developers were building
different codes for each digital product, rather than leveraging each other’s codes to build 1 cohesive code that could work across all products, which isolated who could work on what and delayed turn-
around times on product improvements. There is an open office area currently under renovation that will fit the whole team, but it is not scheduled to be complete for another 6 months. With the renovation underway, budgets are tight and all funds have already been allocated, with minimal slush money available.
What solution(s) would you present?
Here are the solutions I presented:
- Stick with the original plan to jam 15 new team members into a small 18’x14′ open -concept conference room with no windows and 1 door next to their new team on the first floor.
- Book 3 conferences rooms sitting side-by-side that have sliding dividing doors in between them which can give the developers some privacy and quiet. The space is bigger than the 18’x14′ conference room, however it is still open-concept and is in the developers’ old area on the second floor, away from the rest of the team.
- Have the developers stay at their cubicles in their old area and don’t move them until the renovation for a new space is executed half a year from now.
- Book an even larger conference room with a center table and wrap around tables that would allow for the entire team of 23 to sit together. However, this conference room is also on the second floor and open-concept. The boss would still be sitting downstairs all by himself, but at least the team would be together.
- Tear down the walls to the boss’s office to expand the small 18’x14′ conference room in our area and vote our cool, well-loved HR rep sitting with us, off our island and to go sit somewhere else so our boss can have his office. Space is still open-concept and demolition would force the portion of the team currently downstairs to use conference rooms for a week or two.
- Beg the big boss man to give us more budget to rent “We.Work” lofts down the street or mobile RVs like the studios do to work out of temporarily. Mind you, any money we spend gets counted out of the team’s bonus’s if we don’t hit our profit goals.
What a pickle! If you were the boss and given these 6 solutions, which would you pick and why?
Now imagine, I walk into my boss’s office confident with the due diligence I had done to get my team to come up with these options and expecting him to make the decision. You can imagine my surprise when he asked me “If you were the boss, what would you do?” He went on, “Really! If I wasn’t here, and you were the head of everything, what would you do?”
I sat for a moment to recover from my moment I was caught off guard. I had come up with all these answers and now had to pick one. I was oscillating back and forth at lightening speed as I ran through each scenario one more time in my head.
What did I pick?
#5! Tear down the walls to the boss’s office to expand the small 18’x14′ conference room in our area and vote our cool, well-loved HR rep sitting with us, off our island and to go sit somewhere else so our boss can have his office. Space is still open-concept and demolition would force the portion of the team currently downstairs to use conference rooms for a week or two.
And here’s why.
- The whole team would be able to sit and work together.
- Open-concept will get team members to communicate more and could help fix our coding issues.
- If the developers don’t feel the change in a tangible way, then they won’t change their work habits. Open-concept can be adapted to. I had been through a similar situation before and figured out how to do it. So if I could do it, others can too.
- Ousting the boss out of his office shows the team that he’s willing to make sacrifices for the team.
- Our HR rep, although a great contributor to the culture we’re building, really isn’t involved in the work we do nor does he need to be.
- Demolishing 2 walls is cheap and fast. Besides, the walls were coming down anyway in phase 2 of the renovation so the money was already allocated.
- Tearing down walls is symbolic of where we are heading. Heck, we could even all bring our sledge hammers and do it together as a team bonding experience. (If only HR would let us)
- By changing the original plan (#1) which was already communicated to the teams, shows that our team cares about them to not want to cram them in a tiny room together for 6 months.
Luckily my boss agreed with me and we moved forward with option #5.
By posing this question to me, my boss had really forced me to step out of my shoes and into his and it really made me see the situation from a whole different perspective. I was now feeling accountable for my solutions and the consequences for each felt more real. This helped me to connect closer to my team and feel more of a responsibility for them. Knowing that I had a say in the future of my team felt great because I could feel responsible for the impact it would have and the impact I knew I could feel good about. I now look at every problem from that perspective and instead of solely presenting solutions, I pick them too, with conviction.