Stop Asking for Permission

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Change
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Time waits for no man. Or project. Or idea.

Waiting to implement a good idea while running it up and down the flag pole is waste of time. I know, that’s a pretty blunt statement. I wouldn’t call it an absolute (because I wouldn’t call anything an absolute) but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

The tough thing about this mantra is that it’s a lesson not only change agents should learn but bosses and managers need to learn too. Why is that?

Mostly because if you bother to run an idea up the flag pole the idea will at best be bogged down in the mire of politics and bureaucracy or at worst just be rejected. They will want assurances that it will work when really all you can do is assure them that you don’t know if it will work. That’s a little risky for management.

That’s because when you sit at the top you tend to make decisions that will keep you there. You make decisions then out of fear of losing that power. You engage in fear-based decision making, the bane of progress.

So managers and bosses, you really need to try and temper that. Now that’s asking for quite a lot, I know. So maybe we’ll ask for something just a little bit different. We’ll come back to that.

Back to the change agents. You need to stop asking for permission. You need to be comfortable in asking for forgiveness instead. Because nothing inspires forgiveness more than success.

If you or more likely the team you are working with has an idea for change, look into it. In fact there will be lots of ideas for change if you open up the flood gates. The caveat here is that you still have to choose wisely, of course, since you still have limited time and resources.

I see these ideas as wonderful opportunities for prototypes and piloting. Think of it as research and development. Prove the concept in a controlled environment. A chance to experiment. Then you move it up the ladder, maybe. If it works, you move onward and outward.  If it doesn’t work, you learn from it and move on.

But if you see an opening you have to go. Now. Speed and urgency are key here. Small prototype teams make that possible. And a quick succession of wins builds excitement and energy.  That’s why working grass roots is so powerful. Be bold. The key here is that in a small, controlled environment you have shown your team that change can occur and they can control it. That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?

Now back to the managers and bosses. So here’s your job. You need to be comfortable with your teams doing this. You have to let go and empower them. Can you do that?


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