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The right time for decision making

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If you ever questioned your decision making process, you might want to see the recent post by Jim Bird, CTO at BIDS Trading Technologies Ltd. On his blog, “Building Real Software”, Bird writes about the conflict between what he calls Agile and Lean decision making. He points out the differences between these two approaches and notes the controversy surrounding this topic in the community.

Citing number four on the “7 Key Principles of Lean Software Development” list by Kelly Waters, Bird goes through the idea and main benefits of the just-in-time, informed decision making. He argues that leaving detailed design decisions and the matter of resolving dependencies to later stages of the project will allow teams to gather more relevant and up-to-date information and ultimately “(...) this means that you should be able to make better quality decisions”. Bird identifies two kinds of situations when deferred decision making is especially relevant: when the team does not know enough about the problem it is trying to solve and when the decision refers to a part of the system that is contained and can be defined well enough for the team to know that it needs to be done and that it can be done. In both cases focusing on other problems will prevent waste and will lead to less work for the developers.

In the second part of his post Bird explains that there are “(...) decisions that you need to make early on, while there is still time to learn and while there is still time to change your mind and start again if you have to.” Using examples from Mike Cohn’s book, “Agile Estimating and Planning”, he mainly focuses on cross-cutting concerns, such as internationalization, data handling or monitoring. According to Bird the risk of getting these aspects wrong from the start of the project is high enough to allow the waste generated by early decision making process.

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