September 20, 2006
Counter Cliche: Between Permission and Forgiveness
In today’s VC Cliche of the Week, Fred actually takes a Counter Cliche position himself when he talks about how in a startup, it’s NOT usually better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission, as the team needs to be aligned and on the same page. But Fred does go on to say that startups as organizations need to act like mavericks, essentially that the organization needs to break some eggs in the industry in order to make an omelet.
I actually think in most organizations — particularly companies who used to be startups but are growing out of that phase (which is where we are at Return Path now) — there’s something in between Asking for Permission ahead of time and Begging for Forgiveness after the fact. I’d call it the Courtesy of Notification.
It comes down to practicality. Consensus is usually good, but sometimes you just have to forge ahead with your initiative. A healthy organization is one where most of the players know the rules and framework and mission and are empowered to make things happen. There are lots of circumstances where "just doing it" makes sense, but making sure that relevant people at least know "it" is happening will save a lot of heartache down the road and probably create a safety valve to make sure there are no radically adverse unintended consequences.
So make sure you think about who in your organization is affected by the things you do, and when charging forward on your own, at least give your colleagues the Courtesy of Notification.