If you run your own business, one thing you can’t have in your organization is parochialism. That’s because you’re not backed by taxpayer’s money. Now, you may scoff at the thought, but I invite you to take a step back and consider it. If you run your own business or organisation in the so-called “private” sector (I’m still figuring out what is so “private” about it), you might think that since exchanging increasing value is the lifeblood of your business, you are free from such shenanigans. Are you? Would your business still run if you take away funding from investors and government grants? What about shareholders? If shareholders are taken out of the batter, do you still have a cake?
Now that you’ve come to some conclusion about how your business is actually structured and postured, let’s talk about boundaries. My wife and I were taking a walk in a nearby town park one morning when we were accosted by an elderly gentleman whose job, it seemed, happened to be cleaning the Park. The conversation, more of a monologue, really, started with the health benefits of taking morning walks in parks. It soon became somewhat of a rant about how difficult his job was because different areas of the park, and areas adjoining it, were under different administrative bailiwicks, each of which saw fit to maintain parks in their own entrenched ways. Cross-boundary issues took a little short of forever to settle. After some minutes, he bade us good health and went about his business while we resumed our walk.
As we went on our way, I could not help thinking how so much of my previous work involving boundaries could have helped. Boundaries aren’t barriers. Boundaries are markers. They are indicators. Boundaries do delineate primary roles and responsibilities, but they don’t say that secondary roles and responsibilities can be removed from the equation! Indeed, much more than representing “My turf, your turf”, boundaries actually call for clear, positive and mutually supportive coordinating measures. They imply that those on either side need to work out who gives assistance to the other in what situations and how. They also indicate that there are times when actions by either side ought to be restricted in order not to jeopardize what the other side is doing! Boundaries do not mean “thus far and no farther shalt thou go.” They do mean “seek thy neighbour and inquire diligently how thou mayest render him succour from this line forward.”
Think about your business. Are boundaries helping you, or hurting your operations? What would you like to do about it?