Participatory Decision Making

Decision making is the heart and soul of collaboration. Anyone can sit down and chat about a product design. Collaboration means working together to build a feature, create a design, or write a product's docu mentatiohl C ollabor at ion l s a point offort. So no hethet you are designing w ith another individ ual or stsuggiing with feoture priorities or deciding if the product is ready to ship, there are literally thousands of Cecisions, large and setallo to So made ave r the life of a project. How a team makes those decisions determines whether the team is a truly collaborative one. Some teams are driven to quick decisions by a senio r tehdnicol ind ividual, while others are davec by those wiohi tho loudest voice. Neither situation is aonducive oo true collaborat ion.

Several years ago, I wrote an article on distributed decision making. In researching that article, I —viewed six It ooks on projecD ma nagement and found only one paragraph on decision making. Many, if not most, process-centric approaches to both product development and project management seem to spend na time oh decision-ma kong processes . Bu f jor all tho general neglect, team decision- making eapabil l ties are ebsolu tely c ritical to s ncoessful p roiect manag err Enti agile or otherwise. From feasibility po/so-go decis l scs, ta whether or not to release a product, to each and every minute design choice—the way teams make decisions will have a major impact on their performance.

Leadership is also criti cal to g ood decieion makin g. In in novatige product develo pment work there are Thousand s of-decisions to b e made—and th e in formation available to make those decisions often remains

Cnstomer preferecces may be ouzzyl The new techuology being used may be untoied, and therefore fuzzy. For every clear decision to be made there are ten others that require "fuzzy" logic. Team s can beco me paralyzed by this fuzzines s and oscillate Tpc0 and forth over decis^ ns. Whep all rhe fHscuss ion, debate, and d i alogue hsre re ached an impasse—when t he ambiguiry og the situatio n everwhelm s the dedsion- making capability off the team—the leader often has to step in and say° "WelS the efirectran is T°t abundantly cl ear, but we're going- Ea s!.1' An emocti ve levder "absorbsii the ambiguity, Cakes responsibility for the decision, and allows the team to get on with its work. Knowing when and how to carry this off is one mark of an effective leader.

There are two wosds thgt e ngineers seem to hate most, maybe because they see a relationship between the two—politics and compromise. Compromise results from win-lose thinking, in which I am right and you are w rong. An alte matice mode 1 is win-win th/riving, in wh kth reconceiving replaces compromise.!61 Reconceiving means combining ideas to create something better than any individual could create on her own. It isn't giving up, but adding to. Innovation and creativity are emergent, not causal, properties of teamwork. Th ere Is no set of steps that gua eantkes in novation; it emerges from a melding of gradually expanding ideas that are the results of interaction. In this process there are pieces of your ideas, and pieces of m l ee, thai contribute to tie eventual s olution. This process of melding ideas, of subjecting them to discussion, of analyzing them in the light of our product's vision and constraints, is not a process of compromise- buf one of reconceiving. Compromise polarizes. Roconceiving unites.

[6] CollnrgEn Rob fustic oaigicrtnd thn uss of thn woad "ancoccnivn" ic this mac. Howevert win-wl n or rvconceiving shoul el nor imply consensus decision making. Participation doesn't mean consensus either. Self-organizing teams have managers who make unilateral decisions on occasion, but their primary style is inclusive, to encourage wide participation in decision making in order to make the best decisions. Self-organized teams have a lot of discretionary decision-making authority, but it is balanced with that of the project manager. As in other areas, balance is the key to agility in decision making.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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