Boundary Manager

Susan Annunzio posts on the Fast Company blog:

One of the most interesting findings of the Contagious Success research is that in high-performing groups, the leader “protects” the group from the larger company, whether lobbying for more resources or shielding the group from company interference. Sometimes this means bending company “rules” when they are getting in the way of performance. But good leaders use “intelligent disobedience” – knowing which rules they can break and which they can’t.

This fits with one role a ScrumMaster plays and corresponds with what Diana Larsen and I described as “Boundry Manager.” (Download a PDF of the article that appeared in Software Development 8/2004 at Diana’s site.)

Annunzio goes on to say: But good leaders use “intelligent disobedience” – knowing which rules they can break and which they can’t.

Hmmm. And how does one know which rules you can bend?

Look around the organization to see what happens when other people bend rules. You may get a sense of where the flex is — but don’t assume that just beacuse no one else has bent a rule that you can’t.

Use the “inform and move forward” method — notify your boss of your plans to move forward unless he explicitly objects.

Layout the consequences of following a rule in terms of delivering working software, then give your boss the choice. I’ve been in companies (not for long) where following policies and rules to the letter was a higher value than getting work done.

Remember Rear Admiral Grace Hopper’s advice “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”