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InfoQ Homepage News Discussion: "Decide as Late as Possible"

Discussion: "Decide as Late as Possible"

Chapter 3 of Lean Software Development is titled "Decide as late as possible".  It's an important tenet for self-managing teams, encouraging them to avoid detailed discussions of items not currently under development or nearby on the planning horizon.  This practice keeps teams from dissipating their energy on discussions that will only be rehashed again later.  It keeps them focused on their current committments and facilitates what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow" - a state where work is focused and uninterrupted.
Flow is a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. --Wikipedia
But "decide at the last possible moment" does not suggest blindly plowing ahead without thought for upcoming features.  Some trainers modify this to "decide as late as responsibly possible", for clarity. It's a practice that requires a careful balancing act, which one learns over time.

This goes against the grain for many new Agille managers or team leads, who are used to mitigating risk through careful up-front planning.  Can this possibly be right?  A group of ScrumMasters recently discussed the topic, drawing on many collective years of experience.

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Community comments

  • Second Link

    by Geoffrey Wiseman,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Is that final link accurate? It's pointing to the 'lean software' book, whereas I expected it to point to a discussion.

    This is a critical point for me. I can't count the hours I've personally seen go into considering and reconsidering possible avenues before getting to the clarity that implementation-level thought brings. It does require an environment and process that supports this kind of decision making, but it's a valuable ideal if you can get to it.

  • It depends

    by Johnny Blaze,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    It really depends on what you're deciding. As long as you have a general idea of what's being done it's fine to hammer out the specifics later. However, what's more important is to have a good team manager. If you have someone you can keep people focused with drifiting off topic or debate problems that haven't even arisen yet then you're in good hands.

    I believe that it's always important to keep potential problems in the back of your mind at all times as you want to be able to point them out before they become irreparable. At the same time, however, you don't want to get bogged down debating the minutia.

  • Re: Second Link

    by Deborah (Hartmann) Preuss,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Apologies! My mistake :-)
    I'll go fix that, thanks for pointing it out!

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