When Bungay and Merour wrote this article in December 2019, the authors could not have known that, by Easter the following year, we would be subject to more control, rules, and processes than at any time in our lives as pandemic restrictions were imposed across the world!
The authors contend that well-designed structures, processes, and rules describe boundaries. Boundaries, if sufficiently wide, create boundaries. Within these boundaries, people are free to operate with relative autonomy and minimum controls.
We want to highlight this article because it’s clear that, even following our experiences of the pandemic, many organizations still react to uncertain and dynamic business environments by creating additional processes and rules, which attempt to establish control over the changing situation, rather than provide adequate freedom for people. They attempt to ‘solve problems’ rather than ‘bound problems’.
There need to be some rules. Unfortunately, this statement of the blindingly obvious is also used by those seeking to restrict freedom, reduce empowerment and autonomy. The key is to enable freedom, and by imposing the right kind of rules, structure, and process.
As Bungay and Merour conclude: The right kind of rules create internal predictability and simplicity that enable the organization to deal with external uncertainty and complexity. But we would add that there should be no more rules than are strictly necessary!
How Structure, Process, and Rules Make People Free
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