Do You Have Permission?

I’m part of another group writing effort that’s just starting. We were using regular email, not a listserve to communicate. I got confused with all the emails because we didn’t use good email etiquette such as separating new topics into new threads. Because we didn’t have a list, I couldn’t apply rules/filters to make it easy for me to sweep emails into the correct folder.

I had several choices:

  • I could fume about the state of my email.
  • I could work harder at organizing my email.
  • I could create an email list.

I chose the third option, the email list. I created an email list and invited people to join. Did I have permission to do so?

No one gave me permission. I took the permission. If someone else had created the list, I would have happily deleted this one. But no one had. I needed to do this for me.

Here’s what’s interesting. I never questioned whether I had permission. It’s just an email list. The negative consequence, if any, were going to be low risk. We’re all volunteers. While we all want to finish this project, I’m not sure we’re even in the storming phase of working together. (Well, it’s possibly my action has created storming!)

What about higher risk decisions, such as:

  • Changing the way people work on a project. For example, agile approaches demand more collaboration among the members of a project team.
  • Changing the way the project works. In project terms, your project might decide to release partly done work more often (common in incremental or agile approaches).
  • Changing the way you might manage your personal project portfolio, the work you can complete and the work on your parking lot.

You might have other examples. These are high-risk decisions because they challenge the organization’s culture, the status quo. That challenge requires that people change. Those people might have a vested interest in keeping things the same.

Unfortunately, Change is Inevitable. You might not succeed with this change. However, things will change. If nothing else, because the world changes around us.

When do you need permission? I often assume I have permission. In the immortal words of Adm Grace Hopper,

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

For me, permission is partly about risk. When the risk is low, I don’t need permission, especially if I think it’s the “right thing.”

In higher risk circumstances, I might not know enough about whether this is the right action. However, I still tend to ask forgiveness later. It’s that patience thing. (Not much patience here.)

Oh, and the writing group? The leader is thrilled as is at least one other person. Some of the others are not as thrilled. However, they see the list as a necessary evil. (I’ll have to ask how they use email at some point!)

That is my dear adaptable leaders is the question this week: Do you have permission?

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