Preston Smith's Corner

My boss frequently stalls on decisions. Is this fast time to market?

October 2004 Quick Tip

As counterintuitive as it seems, this may be a faster way to market, and it may result in a better or cheaper product or in labor savings also.

Product development is essentially a chain of decisions, and we make decisions based on currently available information. The longer we wait, the better this information can be, so the better our decision might be.

The wisest decision makers explicitly think about the information needed to make a good decision, and they proceed proactively to obtain this information before they have to decide.

Often, the decision is a choice between two alternatives. In this case, you can defer the choice by keeping both options alive and developing them further, what we call parallel development. This is essentially a matter of developing more information to make a better decision.

However, this strategy can clearly delay progress too. If you are going to use it, you must understand your project’s critical path and how it relates to your decision, and you must decide before the decision falls on the critical path. You should also know the cost of obtaining the additional information relative to the benefit of delaying the decision.

Most importantly, this is not an excuse to procrastinate. Even before you reach the point of procrastination, you should recognize that if you delay too many decisions, you will be juggling too many balls, and your cumulative project risk will rise.

For more on this subject, see Chapter 3, “Decide as Late as Possible” in Poppendieck’s book, Lean Software Development

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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