Permission? No thanks, give me some constraints!

Looking at the terms, you might think “Give me permissions all day long!” Not so much…

In a permission culture of decision making, you ask permission. For everything. There are rules and procedures to follow. If a situation/procedure or rule is not defined, you cannot make the decision. Even worse, the company needs to create a new rule for a new situation before it can move on. Examples:

  • If you want to buy something (doesn’t matter what), ask permission of your manager.
  • A new business experiment first needs to be approved by manager x, board y, following procedures a, b and c, before you can start.

In essence, the company needs to define ALL possibilities and relevant rules to be able to make decisions. It is never ending and it costs a lot.

In a constraints culture of decision making, you are allowed to make any decision you need, if they don’t cross certain rules/boundaries or constraints. Examples:

  • Up to 10.000 Euro you can make any business decision you think is appropriate. Treat the companies money as it were your own. 
  • Free to do any experiment you want up to a risk of X (euro, safety, etc.)

In a constraints culture of decision making you are allowed to do anything you want except for a few things. That means everything else is up to you and that opens up an infinity of possibilities.

In essence, the company just needs to define some limits, freeing up creativity for all other possibilities.

Any other examples or though, leave them in the comments.

The Knowledge project podcast #158 Aaron Dignan:  Change the way you work