The Enabling Constraint is a constraint type that provides boundaries yet is flexible enough to allow components constrained by them to apply reason. Enabling Constraints allows human systems to use creativity, novelty, negotiation, and compromise. Enabling Constraints can encourage more communication or the need for more frequent touchpoints.
Enabling Constraints in our daily lives
Enabling Constraints are in just about every aspect of our daily lives. The laws we apply to drive on roads, the rules we use to play a sport like baseball, or the cost of an item - these are all types of enabling constraints. These are types of conditions that a human system can work within.
Defining Enabling Constraints
While Governing Constraints will most often come from those that carry the most significant responsibility within a human system, it is best to encourage collaboration when defining Enabling Constraints. When creating a rule set for a new game, we consider the heuristics of our constraint design, for example - is this rule fun? Is this rule balanced (applying a relative sense of balance)? The process for designing an enabling constraint will often, or almost always, consider the behaviors of the constrained subject. When setting a price for an item, for instance, it is a carefully balanced decision between the one selling the item. How much will the seller benefit in the transaction, who would be willing to make such a purchase, and who might they be?
Enabling Constraints in management
Deadlines are one of the most commonly “felt” enabling constraints. They benefit creative industries when “done” is ambiguous (we talk about Done as an enabling constraint). Deadlines invoke many emotions, and the history of deadline definition probably deserves a second look since many people reading this for the first time may balk at thinking that a deadline is anything but enabling. The most common problem with deadlines is that leaders apply them to govern outcomes. All parties should understand the deadline, and the effects of failing to meet the deadline should all be understood. All parties are then held accountable to perform their roles within the enabling constraint and communicate to achieve the common goal. Feeling emotions like “anxiety” is normal and a good sign that the people involved in the working system genuinely care about either achieving the outcomes or their position in the system.