Every organization has limits to what it can do.  Limits to the money it can spend.  Limits to the time it can invest in a project.  Limits to the manpower it can employ.  Those limits can be thought of as constraints.  Some elements of those constraints are just "facts of life"; imposed by cash on hand, etc.  Others are more self-imposed.  Budgets are a form of self-imposed constraints.  And there is an upside to constraints.

Michael Porter has said that "the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do," which is a kind of constraint.  I tripped across an interesting companion concept in Michael Raynor’s The Strategy Paradox.   He writes that, "constraints…are the cell walls of a living organism without which the vital essence would bleed away (p. 181)."  Isn’t that an interesting way of thinking about the upside of constraints? 

Choosing what not to do, the concept that you can’t do everything (or at least not successfully), is at the heart of a good strategy.  And the truth might be that not having the appropriate constraints leads to your organization’s "vital essence" bleeding away.

What constraints have you intentionally imposed?  What constraints might you need to put in?  Interesting…don’t you think?

The Upside of Constraints