When we discuss relational or organizational boundaries, itcan sometimes be a difficult concept to comprehend because it isn’t somethingwe can see. But just because we can’t see a boundary, it doesn’t mean it isn’tthere or it isn’t important. It is a general misconception that having good boundaries willdistance you from others. However, the truth is that when you know where youend, and others begin, you can then closely engage with others because youwon’t feel overwhelmed or unprotected. Boundariesare present whenever a person or department interfaces with another person ordepartment (Cooper,1986 ). Yan and Louis (1999) define boundaries as “a domainof interactions of a system with its environment in order to maintain thesystem as a system and to provide for its long-term survival. Inprofessional settings it is imperative to define the limits andresponsibilities of the individuals with whom you interact with on a dailybasis.
When organizational boundaries are clearly defined, everyone works moreefficiently because redundant work assignments are eliminated and taskperformance is accountable. Moreover, having a sense of autonomy prevents theneed to distance our self from others with a barrier. When everyone in anorganization is made aware of who is responsible for what, healthier workplaceenvironments are created (Ashkenas, 2000). It then becomes very difficult forsomeone to blame others for their failed or inadequate performance, and goodjob performance can clearly be identified.
Organizations generallyare more innovative, relevant, and responsive when they are exposed to marketinfluences, yet they must regulate or limit the impact of outside influences tooperate efficiently. “Buffering and spanning represent outward-facing boundaryactivities through which a work unit deals with other unites both within theenterprise and in the larger environment. In contrast, bring up boundaryrepresents inward-facing activities that pull system elements/resourcestogether toward the accomplishment of the system’s purposes” (Parsons 1951). Thisdynamic organization-environment tension has inspired the creation of severalmodels of organizational buffering which delineate the systematic exposure andinsulation of organizations from environmental uncertainty (Parsons 1951).Spanning is an alternateactivity in which organizations interact with individuals and groups outsidethe organization to obtain valuable information to help the innovation process.As my company prepared for a federal audit, outside consultants were hired toprovide in depth guidance on federal compliance.
For several weeks this companycoached, prepped and provided insight on key concepts we were lacking. Thiscollaboration lead to successful audit results. We would not have been to bethis successful without working with this consultant.