Monday, May 5, 2014

Agile and Participative Decision-making

The real goal for participative decision-making is fostering clear communication of goals and constraints, liberating the knowledge untapped, harnessing the creativity and insights in the organization.

Participative decision-making is not a completely new concept, and it continues to be used, especially at emerging Agile environment which promotes iterative communication, interaction, and collaboration. More broadly, different cultures, economics, education and histories have produced a variety of management styles, many of them involving a high degree of "participation decision making.”

It depends on the issue at handIt’s a good concept that can manifest itself in many ways (Agile/ Scrum). The difficulty with "participation" is when decision makers disagree -- and the buck has to stop. Consensus building is great in theory, but not feasible in every situation. For the complex issues, it is important to seek group consensus in order to get multiple points of view, and then incorporate the input into the final decision, but a high-level of collaboration is not always practical for any situation. For example, sometimes decisions are needed in a time frame that doesn't allow for a thorough collaboration period. The need for expediency outweighs the risk of participant disenfranchisement. The other challenge is when the participants (who are providing input) disagree with one another or disagree with the final decision. The decision-maker (often times the manager of those who provided input, or a team/project leader) needs to have the courage to defend his/her decision and explain how the input was (or wasn't) used.

Strategy buy-in: The major barrier to strategy execution is staff buy-in. If the business or IT specialist made a decision, there was not a commitment elsewhere in the organization to implementing the plan. The general conclusion was to push planning down in the organizations to those who were responsible for implementation However, there is a companion requirement to draw some lines about what was permissible, to narrow the degrees of freedom. The boundary setting is expressed in several ways, a vision of success, an internal driver (as opposed to an externally oriented mission), and often budget approval. You can also learn to frame the decisions that get input. For example, you don't ask if they want ice cream, but if you've decided they can have it, you ask "What flavor ice cream?", that would be the selective autocracy.

Culture shift: Successfully introducing participative decision-making into a hierarchical structure would require a cultural shift, as both management and employees, has to change expectations and behaviors. Employees need to be convinced that their opinions are valued and that there will be no negative consequences for disagreeing with management before they will "participate" in an effective way. The real issue is fostering clear communication of goals and constraints, liberating the knowledge untapped in the organization, harnessing the creativity and insights of everyone in the organization and pursuing continual improvement.

Agile principle: As information technology has become more important and as product life cycles have shortened, companies pursuing more rapid cycles of learning and also experiencing increased importance of knowledge management find themselves in situations where a leader must manage experts who know more about the areas under his purview. In this kind of situation, the shaping of goals and constraints needs to be combined with the empowerment of knowledge workers and teams. A well-articulated methodology for this type of problem in software is Scrum, one of the major schools of agile. Scrum recognizes a number of important things laid out based on the Agile Manifesto: employee motivation and enthusiasm matters, delivery is more important than paperwork, focus speeds up delivery, frequent review, and prioritization leads to higher productivity and even more important greater value creation. you learn to frame the decisions that get input.

All decisions are difficult and time-consuming as goals and alternatives are continuously being rehashed, debated and tweaked, but no one wants to actually make a decision. Therefore, an effective decision-making scenario takes well alignment of people, process, and technology, implementing a decision-making software tool does make decision making more systematic.



While transitioning to Agile, a major mistake that many organizations make is that they are not sure if he organization has the characteristics essential to successfully make this transition. Then once the transition begins, they realise this existing gap and rectifying it at a later stage is extremely difficult.

Agile Methods are really helpful in terms of decision-making. Some conflicts will happen but providing the right information will help in this term.

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