Specify rules and boundaries so that your team has the freedom to act quickly to simultaneously serve customers and generate profits.

By rules, I mean business rules, or the instructions that specify how your firm behaves in certain situations. "If a customer says they don't want faxes, set the fax indicator to 'no'" is a business rule. So is, "Waive the late fee if a customer in good standing calls with a good explanation within five days following the due date."

Most people think that rules give employees less freedom to use their discretion, but the reverse is true. Well-written rules create boundaries within which employees can use their own judgment. The absence of rules can force employees to repeatedly approach supervisors to ask their opinion, which slows a firm's ability to serve its customers.

Success in this area requires the discipline to create and use rules, and the willingness to trust employees to operate on their own within the boundaries created by these rules.

Bruce Kasanoff