Delaying a decision could be a bad thing, but avoiding decisions may not necessarily be a bad thing. In an agile workplace avoiding decisions actually helps in creating an effective team. Avoidance does not mean failing to act, delaying, procrastinating or accepting the status quo. People may also think that it may provide an excuse to not make decisions. However, there is a balancing act between a bias for action and making a decision at the last possible moment. Choosing to make a decision at the last possible moment is indeed a bias for action, just when you need that most.

  • Empowered teams make smart decisions and implement them

Avoid making a decision, unless you have a compelling reason, to create an empowered team. By avoiding a decision (as a manager or coach) you are allowing agile teams to make a decision they think is the best. Keep in mind the person who makes a decision, is also responsible to implement it. If the teams make decisions, they will be responsible to implement them. On many occasions managers/coaches are tempted to make a decision on behalf of the team and take the responsibility of exploring ways to implement the decision. That not only corrodes the empowerment, but also sends conflicting signals to the teams.

It is tough, uneasy but avoid the temptation to make decisions, if you want your team to become truly empowered. Many executives still fallaciously think that the principle is applicable on other managers and not on them.

  • Development team does not know how to build a solution

The development team doesn’t always know how to build a solution in a most cost-effective way. Typically, they tend to build everything. Software development requires experimentation and growth mindset where people continuously explore, learn and improve. Avoiding quick decisions would surely help the development teams explore more options, possibly the shortest and best route to achieve business goals. It will potentially reduce the likelihood of developing code that will never be used.

  • Product Owner does not always know what customers want

Product Owner also continuously explores and learns what works best for the customers. If Product Owner avoids committing to the cool features early, and avoids a big bang release with all the features (investments) there is a bigger possibility that the product will be customer centric or at least customer voices will be heard.

  • Cost implications

Avoiding decisions until the last responsible moment helps save costs. I remember working with a team which avoided buying Oracle licenses as much as they could only to find out that they actually needed MySQL. Avoiding decisions allowed the team to adjust with the new approach and understanding of the situation. It saves a lot of sunk cost or at least you are not held hostage to poor decisions made early in the game.

  • Change is constant

The eco-system changes, competition changes, people change, and business needs change. A complete mix of all those changes make things volatile. Volatility creates disruptions and an uneasy situation which often leads people to seek easy, innovative solutions at the right moment. So in the chaos simplicity rules if you could avoid getting enamored by the situation.

Ashok is an agile thinker, innovator, writer, and entrepreneur. Ashok specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile practices to build extremely high-performance organizations.

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