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Saying "no" is agile (Agile Tour Riga 2012)
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Saying "no" is agile (Agile Tour Riga 2012)


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Embracing change is a core agile value. That does not mean that we should always say "yes". As developers, we acquire detailed knowledge of the domain and the system. With this knowledge comes the …

Embracing change is a core agile value. That does not mean that we should always say "yes". As developers, we acquire detailed knowledge of the domain and the system. With this knowledge comes the responsiblity to say "no" when we see a real problem. By saying "no", we make room for discussions about the issue at hand, and make it possible do make informed decisions. If we don't say "no", we make promises we can't keep. That means more risk, more stress, lower quality.

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  • Hi, my name is André. I'm from Norway. I work as developer for Miles, one of the larger consultancies in Bergen.\n\nI'm really not that good at saying no. There, I said it.\n
  • So why am I here, more than 1000 kilometers from home, telling a bunch of baltic agilists why it's such a great idea to say no? At an agile conference, even, where change is supposed to make us warm and fuzzy?\n\nLet me tell you a story. A personal story.\n\nAbout a year ago, I was working for a customer I had been working with for several years. The customer relationship had become more and more difficult over the years. We were right in the middle of a project which started out with "just a simple addition, it needs to be done by next week". Before starting we thought "this will won’t really work", but we jumped right in anyway. And then the snowball started rolling, with each new change adding new complexity, without ever taking time to reflect on what was happening. \n\nWe did blame the the "stupid customer" a lot, though.\n\nRight in the middle of this, I was thinking about ideas for a lightning talks for the the Norwegian Agile Conference, Smidig 2011, "Saying "no" is agile". The Norwegian word for Agile is smidig, which directly translated to english means "flexible." As we all know, there is a lot more to being Agile than being flexible, but in Norwegian, this title had a very strong contradiction to it.\n\nRight when I submitted the talk, things were really shaking up, with offers for two more projects on the table. I had strong doubts if these two projects could be completed as proposed, but still didn't really say no. And man, did that get us in to a lot of trouble!\n\nTo not make this too depressing, I'll fast-forward about 10 months.\n\nA few months ago, we were facing a difficult choice. Should we continue the customer relationship, under new terms? I was skeptical, but I also realized I couldn't do it anymore. So I said it. \n\n"No matter what we choose to do going forward, I don't want to work on this."\n\nI didn't threaten to quit, I didn't blame anyone, I just said no. That "no" meant yes to lots of discussions, and it opened the door for a lot of change.\n\nSo that was my story. The last year wasn't very fun, but it has been getting a lot better lately. After I said no.\n\nI don't want you to get this far for you before you say no. That's my mission with this talk.\n\n
  • So that was my story.\n
  • But Agile is supposed to be about embracing change, right?\n\n
  • Why do we embrace change? In order to deliver business value! \n\nEmbrace change, not chaos\n
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  • multitasking is a myth\nwe need to prioritize, or we will end up doing everything at the same time, accomplishing nothing of vlaue\n
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  • doing something you don’t really believe in\nincongruence\n\nunhappiness\nlower quality\npeople stop caring\nlower quality, technical debt\n\n
  • show integrity – win trust\n\ntrust can take years to build, minutes to lose\n
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  • Fear is a powerful feeling\n
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  • If you are faced with a delivery date you don’t believe is possible, does accepting it buy you any time?\n\nIt’s easy to fool yourself into the thinking that it does, “we can always come back to this later”, but in really, as time goes, options narrow.\n\nYou are postponing the confrontation, nothing else.\n
  • lurer på om dette blir den største delen?\n
  • a definite no is rarely the best outcome. Think about what you want to achieve.\n\nSolving the problem together, taking everything into account is key.\n
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  • Put the punch line first, or you may sound defensive. Give the reasons, instead of giving people time to think about counter-arguments.\n\n“I would really like to help, but I don’t think there is enough time, so I’m afraid it won’t work”\n\n“I can't help with that approach and I'd like to explain the problems I see. There is not enough time to make this happen.” \n
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  • Try to take yourself, the other person, and the organization into account. Congruence. \nReally hard under pressure, easy to fall into default responses like blame or placating.\n\n\n
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  • Let’s look a few way to respond to requests we should say “no” to\n\n
  • "What should we stop doing?"\n"What other task/project should wait?"\n“I can do this instead of ...”\n“I don’t have time for it now, but I can do it ...”\n"When do you need it?"\n\n
  • “If I do this, it will affect...”\n“I can’t give you an answer I can commit to until I review my other commitments”\n"We could do that, but the probability of success would be..."\n\n
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  • Transcript

    • 1. Saying no is agile André Heie Vik –
    • 2. My story
    • 3. Why we need to Say No
    • 4. But don’t weembrace change?
    • 5. Change for what?
    • 6. Yes to something ==
    • 7. no to something else
    • 8. Use everyone’s knowledge
    • 9. Groupproblem solving
    • 10. Effects ofnot saying no
    • 11. Building trust
    • 12. Why we avoid Saying No
    • 13. Fear
    • 14. Avoidingthe unpleasant
    • 15. Avoidingdisappointment
    • 16. Buying time
    • 17. How toSay No
    • 18. Don’t just say no
    • 19. It’s not about you
    • 20. Care about theconsequences
    • 21. It matters how you say it
    • 22. Don’tblame
    • 23. Don’t say«I told you so»
    • 24. Think aboutother perspectives
    • 25. Expect pressure
    • 26. Techniques
    • 27. Priorities
    • 28. Consequences
    • 29. Please remember
    • 30. Never bedishonest…
    • 31. …even if the client requests it Jerry Weinberg’s ten laws of trust
    • 32. Withholding knowledge is dishonest
    • 33. Uncompromising honesty
    • 34. it’s not about you
    • 35. Questions? André Heie Vik –
    • 36. Questions? André Heie Vik – – Bergen, Norway, March 13-15,