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In a previous career I had a boss who used to like to set hard-fast rules: "Under no circumstances should we ever ..." I would often grow uncomfortable at the proposed restrictions on how one must carry out the job, and would ask, "Never? How are we going to deal with ...?" Just about every time the reaction would be, "Well, that's a special case. How often does that happen?"

The point is that there are often more special cases than average moments in the day of a demanding job, and we really ought to be cultivating environments where people can excel by exercising their creative and hopefully talented minds in meeting those special challenges. Is it a good idea to take a moment to critically consider options before doing something that might disrupt the norm? Of course. But preventing one from disrupting the norm puts people to sleep, stifles creativity and productivity, and worst of all, prevents people from developing a sense of pride and ownership for their responsibilities.

So here's the hard fast rule I took from that repeated experience: "Under no circumstances should we ever ... make it impossible for people to adapt to unforeseen situations by thinking for themselves."

I think the cannonical example of policies enforced with good intentions but having negative side effects is enforcing password policies that make user's passphrases so hard to remember that they write them down and stick them with a post-it note to the side of their monitor.


In reply to Re: Setting boundaries in software development by davido
in thread Setting boundaries in software development by talexb

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