Work-in-progress, work entry and “no” are highly interrelated. Not saying no generates a cascade failure that reduces efficiency, quality, and value, while at the same time increasing cost, time-to-market, and turnover.  Any way you slice an organization not judiciously saying no is a prescription for disaster. In the essay, Why Work Entry Is Important In Agile, we discussed the serious disruptions that occur when a team can’t or won’t control the flow of work to the team.  The uncontrolled flow of work causes:

  1. Disruptions
  2. Missed promises 
  3. Loss of trust

Serious issues, but they are only the observable tip of the iceberg. The inability to say no is a reflection of several issues that are evidenced as work entry problems. 

  1. Lack of empowerment – The inability to say no is a reflection of individuals or teams that do not have the tools or power to regulate the work they are asked to perform. Lack of empowerment is directly linked to reductions in performance and personal development, which causes a spiral of poor quality and missed deadline leading to a loss of trust. 
  2. Tyranny of the urgent – Urgency can obscure what is important. When emergencies become the only filter, functionality and opportunities that build for the future will be displaced. 
  3. Elevates the loudest voice in the room – In a similar manner that the tyranny of the urgent causes a focus on the wrong work individuals can dominate the conversation and freeze others out. The squeaky wheel gets the attention that would be better spent with other stakeholders. 
  4. Burn out – Saying yes to everything leads to 25 hour days (it is possible) causing emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.  When an individual or a team burns out, everyone the team comes into contact with will suffer.

The inability to say no is a leadership problem which is a component of a poor work entry process. In the long run, a judicious no is more important than saying yes all of the time! 


Next:  What Yes Really Means (other than maybe)