Having a camera is a prerequisite to taking a picture.

Agile teams make decisions continuously. These decisions are critical to keeping work continuously moving forward.  Having to search for someone to make a decision or to setup a meeting to make a decision can be difference between completing or not completing a piece of work during an iteration. What are the prerequisites for Agile teams to make decisions?  There are some obvious prerequisites, like the need to make a decision, but assuming that basic need is met the team needs trust, knowledge and the tools to make a decisions.

Team decision-making is a collaborative process and requires trust (this is even more important when the team is distributed) and a sense of shared responsibility. Trust among team members is generated from a set of interactions, either facilitated or organic, in which team members learn the capabilities and opinions of their teammates. These interactions generate a common team culture that as it deepens allows team members to develop a better understanding of each person’s (and by extension the team’s) capabilities and behaviors. Assuming actions and communications that lead to decisions are made in line with the profile we have developed for the team we can work together to make decisions.

Knowledge is one of those prerequisite that can be rectified relatively quickly. Diversity helps broaden the team’s knowledge, however teams need to understand the knowledge capabilities as deeply as skills based capabilities. When there are deficiencies team members need to work to fill the gap. Without the knowledge to make a decisions the answer derived will be correct only by accident.

There are numerous methods and techniques to make decisions. We explore a few here.  Decision-making frameworks provide team members with the knowledge of tools that can help the team approach decision making. Many of us have one or two mechanisms for making a team decision. The most common technique leverages PowerPoint, boredom and arguing. Techniques like De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats, Highsmith’s Fist to Five and maybe even roshambo might be valuable tools to have in your decision-making tool-box.

A team without trust, knowledge and the tools to make decisions is going to struggle. The struggle to make decisions will translate into making poor decisions or worse, into asking someone else to make the decision. Bad decisions are not the worst problem because feedback from mistakes will help the team learn to make BETTER decisions or to learn HOW to make decisions.