More of a business observational thing today.

I’ll look at two different dimensions here. One axis is fear level, the other is empowerment level. They are somewhat related, but not entirely. They do, however, change how you run a company and if it will succeed.

Fear has strange things working for it. If you are always afraid you’ll make contingency plans for everything. It’s hard to take a step in any direction because whatever you do can and will be used against you. You’re not allowed to make mistakes. The opposite thing is recklessness; throwing caution to the wind. If something breaks you drop everything and fix it. People are expected to make mistakes, to trip up once in a while in the quest for speed and agility.

The other axis is empowerment. Can you make decisions for yourself or do you need to hold a meeting and get the VP to sign off on going off to lunch? This also affects speed. If you can’t be trusted to make decisions on your own then why are you even there?

I’ve worked in places with both extremes.

One place had way more chiefs than indians. It seemed that everyone had a budget and they always wanted to spend it all. At the same time everyone worked in fear to protect their own status. The combination of the two resulted in gridlock. Since everyone wanted a piece of the developers (the indians in this case) there was far too little to go around.

Another place seems to have way more indians than chiefs. You can make mistakes, but you don’t have the authority to go beyond yourself. That makes it hard to form cohesive teams. If there’s no one that can decide on anything, you lose some of the power of delegation and hierarchy. If every move needs to have a meeting with a couple of VPs in it, what’s going on?

It’s like the difference between management by fear versus management by panic.

You want to be sure of yourself, but not too sure nor paranoid. You need to have the authority to do your job and help with those below you in the food chain. You need to be allowed to make mistakes, but expected not to continually make them.

It’s all about balance.

Ok, so this was more of a rant than anything… deal with it. :-)