Mandatory vs. actually mandatory

There’s always a gap between what your company says is mandatory and what is actually mandatory. The Manager Tools podcast calls that your wiggle room, but in some companies there’s enough space in there to do a lot more than wiggle.

Rebel leaders are the ones that find their wiggle room. They poke around to find where “mandatory” stops and “actually mandatory” kicks in, and that’s where they set up shop.

Maybe it’s ditching story points even if the company says “we use story points here.” Maybe it’s a manager and a direct report collaborating on a single doc which will become both the self evaluation and the performance review, despite the fact that HR’s very much not on board. Or maybe it’s something bigger.

Thinking In Systems has a killer section about transcending paradigms:

There is yet one leverage point that is even higher than changing a paradigm. That is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that no paradigm is “true.” It is to “get” at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny.

If no paradigm is right, you can choose whatever one will help to achieve your purpose. It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.

Donella H. Meadows

Talk about rebel leadership, right? Mandatory things that aren’t actually mandatory are nothing more than paradigms, and paradigms can be ditched. So ditch them when you need to. Set up camp in your wiggle room.

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