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Thursday Thoughts: 5 Boundaries Organizations Face

I am a graduate student at George Washington University and I am fortunate enough to be taking a leadership class with a former high-level government official. My professor has served at the highest levels of government, and provides a first hand account how to lead large, complex and bureaucratic government agencies. Every Thursday I’ll post some thoughts on previous lectures that intrigued me, hopefully they do the same for you.


Organizations, public or private, face numerous boundaries to what they are capable and willing to accomplish. An organization has a mission and values that describe what they can do, not what they can’t do. This is very different from the Constitution which outlines the limits on government. Some of the boundaries I’ll outline below impose limits, while others are obstacles that must be addressed.

Boundary 1: Mission
How is an organization’s mission a boundary? For instance, the stockholders of a publicly traded organization impose different operational rules. And for the government, the authorizing legislation, where its mission and goals would be found define the boundaries.

Boundary 2: Resources
Any organization needs resources to accomplish its goals. These can be in the form of revenue, public appropriations, or most importantly, human resources. Monetary and human resources impose boundaries, without proper resources the organization is limited.

Boundary 3: Capacity
A typical competency and skill set, and how plentiful an organization’s competencies and skills are impose boundaries. Capability to perform and competency are not the same. Competency is how much capability you have, but capability is actually answering the question, “can you do something?”

Boundary 4: Responsibility
Responsibility to shareholders and to the public within the boundaries of resources / appropriations impose a limit. Are the managers responsible stewards of trust, management, time, and money?

Boundary 5: Accountability
Put succinctly, accountability is the ability to say what you’re going to do. How accountable you are to your orders and to what shareholders / the public expect?

What obstacles have you noticed in your organization? How have people worked together to overcome them?

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