Often, governance and rules turn out to be folklore, their origins long forgotten, even non-existent. Here’s a technique to expose that, and then start building up more helpful governance.

For example, we ran a leadership program with a set of senior leaders in a large, private-sector organization. They felt frustrated about the ways the organization constrained them from innovation, from collaboration, and from having the time and space to focus more on creating what they want for the future rather than reacting to what they have now. As they discussed these limitations together, they realized they each had a different sense of what, exactly, the limitations were. Each person had created in her mind a set of the limitations that came from outside, and all of them had been acting to ensure that their own staff lived inside those boundaries. Upon collective reflection, though, they discovered that none of them had a really clear sense of what the actual limitations were in the organization. Listening to their different perspectives on this day was boundary shattering for them; they discovered that most of what they were railing against was a phantom, a rumor, or other ghostly sense of what was allowed or not. They realized that they, too, had been unconsciously creating these boundaries for their people, even as they disliked them for themselves. Collectively, they began to play with creating new boundaries—with their eyes open and on purpose—that would enable some of the things they had previously experienced as constrained.

Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders by Jennifer Garvey Berger, Keith Johnston