Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Any decision is better than no decision

Since the Project Manager is involved in keeping all the pieces of the project together, he is the natural address for questions.

One of the items that need to be addressed during the early stages of any project, is: "who is responsible for making decisions?"

However, many of the questions that arise do not have a correct/incorrect answer, the simply need a decision.

Examples would include:
  • What font size/color to use
  • What exact wording to use (OK or Yes or Go)
  • What happens in corner cases which nobody though of and probably never happen
Most of the time the answer is not really important. What is important is providing an answer.

The sooner the answer is provided, the sooner the developer can get back to work.

A Project Manager needs to be courageous and simply make a decision. This decision then needs to be documented (so that QA know about it, for example) and then communicated to whoever was supposed to make the decision.

The only data the Project Manager needs is how long would it take to reverse the decision.

 As is usually the case, these changes are trivial and - if the engineer is aware that the decision is not 100% final - then he will implement it such that it's trivial to find and change.

In the rare cases that the decision was wrong (or: somebody thinks another answer is better) then a change can be made. If this change request comes soon after the decision is made, then it will be quick and easy to change.

But beware: nothing is more permanent than something temporary.

My first assignment as a Project Manager was WordPoint 1.0 - and it needed 3 icons:
  1. Dictionary
  2. Encyclopedia
  3. Dictionary & Encyclopedia
Initially the developers used a blue book for Dictionary and red book for the Thesaurus; standard icons that came with the development environment.

Using MSPaint we created a blue book sitting on top of a red book for the 3rd icon.

After a long process of getting a professional looking set of icons, the product shipped with the demo icons. No other alternative made it through the decision process.

How this happened was a lesson in how not to make decisions - something warranting it's own post.
So make sure that your initial decisions are acceptable to be shipped, because they probably will be.

This may also explain strange error messages - like How did you get here? -  that you sometimes see in products. They were planning on getting some fancy wording - and it never happened.

- Danny Schoemann

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