Want to empower autonomous teams and free the front line to innovate without opening the door to chaos? Putting guardrails in place can help create alignment and control while also giving employees more freedom, says a new Harvard Business Review article authored by the MIT Leadership Center.

Among the guardrails the authors recommend:

  • Cultivate a strategic mindset to keep decisions aligned with priorities.Ensure that everyone in the organization has a sense of the business model, strategic plans and how their work could push the organization forward. Senior leaders should go directly to employees and use videos, slides, webinars and in-person forums to communicate strategy and financials.
  • Implement “simple rules” to help leaders deal with blockages. When a bottleneck arises, leaders at all levels identify the problem and come up with a simple rule to help address it, and then step out of the way.
  • Not every innovation idea can or should move forward. There has to be a funneling process. It begins when product developers attract talent to their teams and partner to get resources. Next, seasoned leaders who have a broad view of the organization may point to similar projects or synergies with other teams. Then, the team must prove that the project is a good strategic bet for the company and deserves organizational resources.Throughout the process, some ideas get refined, while others die a quiet death.
  • Managing risk should be everyone’s job. Create a culture of distributed risk mitigation in which anyone can order a “stop” for a project that is risky in terms of revenue or reputation. Train employees on assertiveness and the benefits of advocating the best course of action even though it might involve conflict with others.

See the full HBR article: How to Give Your Team the Right Amount of Autonomy