Kerry Buckley

What’s the simplest thing that could possibly go wrong?

We don’t have a Lord – team leadership and decision-making


Simon Baker has posted a response to John Scumniotales’s post on Team Leadership and Self Organization, and I have to say I’m with Simon.

We don't have a lord

Decision-making is something we were discussing at work the other day, after someone commented on how hard it was to give a simple answer when asked who was in charge of the team (without resorting to Holy Grail quotes).

We never really had a process for making decisions, but on reflection if we had documented it, it would probably have looked something like this:

  • Most day-to-day decisions can just be made by an individual or pair, as they crop up.
  • If you’re not sure, a quick chat with someone else usually sorts it out.
  • For the big decisions, the team discusses the options, and agrees on which is best.
  • If you can’t decide which is best, it probably doesn’t really matter. Try one, and if it doesn’t work out, try the other. Or try both and compare them (this is why XP recommends creating spike solutions).

There’s one case I can think of that’s not covered in that list, and it’s not one this particular team has faced yet. What if the the team can’t agree, due to fundamental differences of principle? In the software world some fairly petty disagreements can easily turn into religious wars. If this kind of friction is causing serious problems, it may suggest that you don’t have a sustainable team – perhaps some kind of reshuffle is called for. Having said that, if no-one ever disagrees on anything, you’re probably just coasting, rather than constantly looking for ways to improve.

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Written by Kerry

January 13th, 2007 at 10:35 am

Posted in Agile

2 Responses to 'We don’t have a Lord – team leadership and decision-making'

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  1. Something as simple as timeouts provide an effective mechanism for gathering the team to discuss and make the bigger decisions. Sam Kaner’s
    Facilitators Guide to Participatory Decision Making featuring the Groan Zone is something I’ve found useful when facilitating a team that’s experiencing (hopefully constructive) disagreement and going through conflict resolution to find an acceptable agreement.

    Simon Baker

    13 Jan 07 at 1:19 pm

  2. Alkesh

    31 May 07 at 2:38 pm

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