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SPaMCAST 469 features our essay on consensus decision-making.  Consensus decision-making is one of the most prevalent decision-making tools in organizations today. But, consensus decision-making has it plusses and minuses. We came to a consensus and decided to discuss the topic.

Our second column this week is from Kim Pries (The Software Sensei).  Kim revisits the topic of cognitive biases.  Biases can blind us unless we are vigilant. Kim’s advice is to ask for data rather than just allowing our biases to decide for us.

Our third column is via Steve Tendon, who will bring us part 2 (2 of 3) of our discussion of chapter 20 of Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban  (buy a copy here).

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Metricas 2017

I will be keynoting on Agile leadership and delivering one my favorite presentations, Function Points and Pokémon Go
29 November 2017
Sao Paulo, Brazil


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This week we re-read Chapter 5 of Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction by Daniel S. Vacanti. Chapter 5 is titled, Flow Metrics and CFDs. The chapter puts the ideas of flow metrics and the power of cumulative flow diagrams together to provide a boatload of information..  Buy your copy today and read along!

Previous Installments

Introduction and Game Plan

Week 2: Flow, Flow Metrics, and Predictability

Week 3: The Basics of Flow Metrics

Week 4: An Introduction to Little’s Law

Week 5: Introduction to CFDs

Week 6: Flow Metrics and CFDs

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SPaMCAST 470 features the return of Ben Linders. Ben and I discussed his new book, What Drives Quality.  We explored the definition of quality, who owns quality and what teams can do to deliver quality.  If you are into excellence in value delivery, this interview will inform and delight you..  

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Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here. Available in English and Chinese.


You can’t make a consensus decision by yourself.

Consensus decision-making is occasionally viewed as a panacea; however, there are several potential shortcomings. Like most situations, knowing an issue is a major step to resolving the issue. (more…)

How to decide?

Consensus decision making requires a number of prerequisites to be effective.  The prerequisites include a common goal, trust, commitment, participation, facilitation and a decision-making process.  There are numerous documented processes for making consensus decisions, each tailored to a specific set of circumstances.

Clear Process

A clear process makes consensus decision making easier because the process ensures that all viewpoints have time to be examined.  Following a defined process tends to be most impactful when the team is new, membership is dynamic or the group is large.  In all of these cases, a process helps to control potential chaos. The following process flow is a synthesis of a number of methods for team level consensus decision-making. (more…)

Consensus decision-making is perceived to be one of the most prevalent decision-making tools in organizations today due, in part, to organizations’ use of teams and Agile. To be efficient, consensus decision-making requires five significant prerequisites. They are:

Common Goal

A common goal provides a decision making group with a rallying point that helps keep teams and organizations moving in the same direction.  In addition, decision-makers can evaluate whether each individual decision generates progress toward the goal or at the very least which potential decision in any decision set will move the needle.

Commitment to Reach a Consensus

Everyone needs to agree that they will arrive at a consensus.  Without a commitment to consensus, an individual or a small group can block movement. Individuals or subgroups that resist not only can stop a decision but also force others to come to a consensus with their point of view even if that point of view is unwise or unhealthy for the group.


Team members must trust that everyone participating in making a consensus decision have both the same goal and the best interests of the team at heart.  There can be no fear that after making a decision individuals will actively or passively subvert the decision.  Throwing members under the bus when a decision is questioned is a trust killer and will make forming consensus in the future nearly impossible.  Trust and commitment to reach a consensus are highly intertwined.

Active Participation

Active participation in the decision process includes both listening and engagement.  Participation helps a team to move toward consensus because it shortens the time it takes to expose and synthesize alternate views. The lack of active participation might be interpreted as an ability to live with a decision or it can be a sign of resistance. When facilitating a decision where people are not participating, the facilitator must probe to understand what is really happening.  Stating that lack of a response will be taken as acceptance is not active facilitation. Lack of active participation in the decision process can also be a reflection of the wrong people being involved in making the decision.  Before convening a meeting to generate a consensus decision ask who should be involved and why.

Good Facilitation

Simply put, someone has to herd the cats in an effective manner.  An effective facilitator can help guide towards consensus rather than letting the group drift toward an answer.  Facilitation also helps avoid many of the potential pitfalls we will explore in the fourth entry of this theme.

Consensus decision-making is powerful and popular decision-making technique.  Teams often embrace the technique even when they haven’t ensured that they have all of the prerequisites lined up. Not dealing with the prerequisites will often lead to teams failing to generate a decision, generating an imperfect consensus, and/or splits in the team leading to resistance and infighting.  


Consensus Decision Making Theme:

  1. Consensus Decision-Making
  2. Prerequisites and Attributes for Consensus Decision-Making ** Current **
  3. Process for Consensus Decision-Making
  4. Issues with Consensus Decision.-Making


So the answer is . . .

Consensus decision-making may be one of the most prevalent decision-making tools in organizations today.  Simply walk around and ask the denizens of cube farms and team spaces how they make decisions. My perception is that the increase in the prevalence of using consensus as a decision tool has paralleled with an increase in the use of Agile and teams as a significant tool to deliver value. Defining consensus decision-making is a critical first step in understanding how to harness the power of the technique. (more…)

Not all puppies and kittens.

Cognitive biases are important decision-making tools.  The help to make snap decisions based on patterns of behavior that have been successful in the past. However cognitive biases are not all kittens and puppies.  Cognitive biases can also lead us to miss problems we are not trained to recognize or to ignore better solutions to problems we have solved before.  With some rules, effort, and support most of the problems caused by cognitive biases can be avoided. Tools to avoid the downsides of cognitive biases include:  (more…)

Creative thinking can help you combat cognitive biases.

Cognitive biases are shortcuts that people use in decision making.  The shortcuts generated by cognitive biases are typically helpful, which leads to people to internalize the bias. These internalized biases are therefore used unconsciously.  Any behavior that becomes an unconscious response can lead to actions and decisions that are perceived as irrational if the context or the environment has shifted.  For example, a colleague recently related a story about an organization with an emergent product quality problem that occurred after they had disbanded their independent test group. The response was to immediately reconstitute the test group based on the belief that if the independent testing had worked before it would work again. The response was based on a cognitive bias, not a root cause analysis or some form of mindfulness.   (more…)