How long do you have to live with that decision?

Posted on June 21, 2021.
Short cycles = agility

Many of the teams I work with struggle to make decisions. Whether it’s which designs to implement, which feature to prioritize or which process to use they spend hours debating, voting, building consensus while assessing all the various risks involved with that decision. There’s a finality to these conversations. This is it. Once we make this decision we’re done with this part of the process and moving forward. Because of this the decision-making process drags on and on. 

But what if we reframed each decision a team has to make with this question: How long do you have to live with that decision?

If we’re working in short cycles (yes, sprints) then the reality is that we only have to live with each decision for as long as that cycle lasts. In fact, that’s the power of agility. Being agile means working in short cycles and then using these cycles to learn whether or not what we implemented — be it feature or new way of working — meets our and our customers’ expectations. If it doesn’t, we don’t have to maintain it any further.

We use retrospectives to review how well our work met our expectations. If it doesn’t we change it (or remove it). Making changes based on evidence is the definition of agility and short cycles enable that. 

The next time your team is struggling to move forward on a decision, ask yourselves — how long do we have to live with this decision?