On 23 November China declared an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea and warned of military action if any aircraft entered it without permission.
A pair of United States Air Force B52 aircraft flew through the ADIZ today and nothing happened.
In 1973 Libya declared the Gulf of Sidra as closed to ships and aircraft from other nations. The US regularly sent ships and aircraft through the Gulf and in 1981 shot down two Libyan fighters that fired at its carrier based fighters.
Under International Law, if nations accept by their actions unilateral declarations by one nation about the extent of its sovereignty for long enough, then the re-defined boundaries become part of the law. Powerful countries like the United States make a point of exercising their freedom of navigation to show that they have not accepted them.
If military aircraft aren't traversing through other countries' ADIZ then they're 'tickling' them. 'Tickling the ADIZ' is flying close to a declared ADIZ boundary and occasionally ducking over it and back out. It is designed to trigger a response from the other country so that the 'tickling' military can gather information about the other's military capabilities.
Aircraft ducks in - ADIZ country activates radar, sends orders and other command and control communications that can be intercepted and analysed, aircraft might be scrambled to intercept, giving an insight into reaction times - aircraft ducks back out, laden with information collected about the other country's defences.
Despite their military utility, ADIZ are a creature of civilian aviation and military aircraft are exempt. They are intended to give air traffic control greater power over civilian aircraft that are in international airspace, but intend to enter sovereign airspace. But if there are eight radar contacts seeking permission to enter an ADIZ and seven declare themselves then it's a good guess what the eighth one is.
Laws, policies, procedures, contracts, agreements, mission statements, values statements, duty statements, codes of conduct, working hours, meeting schedules, delegation registers, deadlines. These are the ADIZ of an organisation. They declare: 'If you do this, you can expect us to do that. If you cross this line, we will respond in this way.'
The lines that we draw and our responses to them literally define us. We are revealed, tested and shaped by the decisions that we make relative to the boundaries in organisations and in our lives, and in the way that we respond to our own and and others' transgressions of them.
In a healthy organisation, boundaries are a shorthand way of an organisation saying:
'We know by our expertise and experience that our Widget is best made if you stay this side of the line. We don't want every person to have to measure out the line themselves or to re-learn what our lawyers, accountants, marketers, HR department, investors and customers have already told us about where the line should be. You've got better things to do - like making the Widget. We've got better things to do than explaining all our thinking behind these boundaries. So you just need to know - here's the line. Don't cross it.
'We also know that many of you will want to test the line or duck over it to see what happens out of your inherent curiosity, mischief, ignorance, laziness, or mistake. Please pay attention to the lines and don't cross them for any reason. Because your innocent action looks exactly the same as that of someone who has more sinister intentions. We don't want to have to inquire into each person's motives. Plus, we want people with good judgement who pay attention and respect our lines. So just stay this side of the line please. Thank you.'
In a healthy organisation, lines are drawn sparingly and only when the law or the Widget demand them, and not as mere power statements. If they are drawn when only absolutely essential, transgressions or 'tickling' of the lines must have clear and unequivocal consequences because by definition they threaten the existence of the organisation's Widget.
As even the Director of Values said in one organisation: 'Do whatever you want within the boundaries, but cross them and you'll get shot.'
Breaches of boundaries can reveal more about a person than that they merely crossed a line.
An organisation's response to a breach can reveal a great deal about the organisation.
Good decision making is an essential part of an organisation's Integrity.
Integrity is doing what you said that you were going to do.