Rules Are Meant to be Broken

Michael Aucoin

Michael Aucoin, D. Engr., PE, PMP is president of Leading Edge Management, LLC in College Station, Texas and author of Right-Brain Project Management: A Complementary Approach. He can be reached at

As I drove the car at 80 miles per hour, my wife painfully gripped my hand. “It feels like the baby is coming out,” she pleaded.

Everything had happened so suddenly. A few minutes earlier, we had been home preparing to leave for the hospital with her in moderate but tolerable labor. Just as we were leaving, she quickly went into heavy, late-stage labor. There was no time to call for an ambulance or police escort. The situation called only for aggressive and creative driving to get to the hospital in time. Speeding and driving through red lights, we made it with only minutes to spare. Our second child was delivered by the nurse in the exam room. Had I followed the rules of the road, I would have delivered the baby on the side of the highway.

Sometimes, the only way to get something done is to break the rules. It is much the same on an agile project. Often we must bend or break the rules to accomplish what is needed. But rule breaking should not lead to chaos or anarchy--it must be guided by a higher purpose.

The challenge of driving to the hospital was simultaneously complex and simple. It was complex because the car had a manual transmission, and I needed to help my wife breathe through contractions while she screamed and applied a vise-grip to my hand. I had to drive both aggressively and alertly while also keeping her calm.

At the same time, the…

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