Recently we were helping a client introduce Agile into large parts of the organization. The client has offices across the country and the larger projects typically included people from multiple locations.
The teams faced many of the usual challenges related to low-bandwidth communication compared to face-to-face. To improve communication effectiveness two of the teams decided to use an online meeting service with webcams. At the company headquarter the teams wanted a portable unit with all the necessary equipment that they could then move back and forth between the two physical Scrum boards when it was time for their respective stand-ups. At the other locations less people was involved and they would use their own computers.
Unfortunately Facility Services had rather strict rules about what was allowed and getting a unit on casters to place the TV screen on had to be ordered weeks in advance. The director of development responsible for both projects tried to explain Facility Services the urgency with no luck.
Instead of waiting for Facility Services to deliver, the director drove by IKEA on his way home and the next morning he had assembled a drawer unit on casters and placed a computer and a TV screen on it. The solution did the job, but Facility Services wasn’t happy at all. They argued the furniture wasn’t certified for professional use and was therefore not allowed in the workplace.
Luckily for the teams the Director demanded the IKEA drawer unit stayed in use until Facility Services provided a replacement. Suddenly Facility Services were able to find and install a suitable furniture within a few workdays.
Since the incident discussed above, Facility Services has really stepped up. The pressure from the organization to deliver faster has forced them to re-think their policies. Multiple teams now have their own portable TV units and new whiteboards often gets delivered within hours of being ordered.
My point is not that you need to break rules to show leadership, but you need to understand the needs of your team and people and help create an environment where they can perform as optimal as possible. If that means bending the rules by going shopping at IKEA and assembling a drawer unit on casters, then that’s what you need to do.