As someone in management I make every attempt for my team work on their own. I will not micromanage, I never like it being done to me and would not want people to feel the way I did when it happened.
Also there are plenty of research out there that shows when leaders take that step back and give them control in their work it will lead to better job satisfaction.
Letting be empowered in what they do and get the work done gives staff the sense of ownership and not driven by specific orders from above.
Now with that said comes the “within limits” part of the title. Read through the link I provided you will see in the control part it discusses that leadership will give direction and not specific orders. That is something I firmly believe in. Barking out orders doesn’t work well in an industry where innovation and “outside the box” thinking helps with ensuring quality products go out to clients. What I use is a basic set of rules, without them it does not end well.
As an example there was one group that I worked for that used an automation tool to complete all the testing for one application. Now it was a good tool at the time and provided what was needed. The unfortunate thing was there were no rules around how the data, scripts and application was to be used by the team. At one point nobody would be able to run a suite of tests and get valid results to validate without doing more investigations and traces within the system to review. In doing so it complete negated the value of the tool that was to do all that for you.
There was a sub project that was created to clean up the data, scripts and provide a clearly define process on how the tool was to be updated. The project took a while, a little longer due to something I did (detailed here Owning up to mistakes) . I can tell you I never repeated a similar mistake like that again.
In the end with the rules and changes we did it proved to be a huge value. Now I know you are saying right now “where is the freedom?” Well the freedom came in the lead up to the stable environment. We created two automation data databases; one with strict control and one that was fair game. This was the perfect set up as people can do what they wanted to test and after go through the process after the project to move the data to the clean database to add to the regression suite.
In the end I understand that most people are happy when they are left to their own devices to get work done. As some of you that know me I am far from being a strict rules follower. While some rules should never be broken there are some that can be bent or should be broken to help with getting work done and also help with innovation.