Management by Exception

Management by Exception
: Delegate authority to act within specified tolerances, and only involve others if those tolerances are exceeded

  • First try and fix it yourself
Also Known As:
  • Escalation (especially in a line management context). Note that the term Management by Exception is sometimes used to describe fire-fighting.
Motivation: Localize responsibility, avoid micro-management and the unnecessary seeking of approval

Structure: A workstream (such as a project) can only operate within certain tolerances. Tolerances might be constraints on time, cost, resource, quality, scope, or any other variable within a workstream’s environment. The conformance of a workstream to those tolerances is measurable by inspection. A manager (such as an agile team member) will have the authority to inspect and adapt his or her workstream within the prescribed tolerances. If the tolerances are exceeded then an exception will be raised.

Applicability: Management by Exception is suitable for teams with clearly demarcated responsibilities, operational tolerances, or constraints.

Consequences: Management by Exception empowers parties to operate within certain tolerances. Raising an exception transfers responsibility and accountability to others should those tolerances be exceeded. However, it is usually most efficient to resolve problems as close to the source as possible. It is therefore important that the allocated tolerances do not unduly limit an agile team’s freedom of operation.

: Agile projects usually exhibit tolerances on scope rather than time, cost, resource, or quality. Team empowerment is recognized in DSDM, Scrum, and XP. All support Management by Exception.

See Also: