Decision-making in an agile team – Who decides?

Decision-making in an agile team – Who decides?

As agile coaches, we feel it is especially important to live out agile values ourselves. Anyone who knows us knows that we are committed to the agile mindset. We derive our principles from our values, which means that we face a continual succession of new challenges. There is one in particular that I would like to talk about today: decision-making within a team.

The consensus trap

Traditionally, decision-making is a task for management – but what if it were a job for the team, as it is in our case? Does this mean all of us always have to agree? Do we take a vote, or does a single individual decide on the way forward?

When we first started out, we too fell into the classic consensus trap – as do most agile teams. Most teams assume that agility is only possible if individual employees can come to a consensus. But this is rarely the case, and it also slows down the value chain enormously.

How can we speed up our decision-making without delegating it to those higher up?

Consultative individual decisions

One solution is known as consultative individual decisions. When something comes up, the first decision to be taken is which team member will deal with the issue. This person then talks with the relevant team members, gathers their opinions, weighs the pros and cons and finally comes to a decision. And here's where the real challenge begins – once a decision has been taken, everyone has to stand behind it.

Agree or disagree, but commit

There's no rule that says an agile team always has to agree. It’s much more important to just get the decision made.

In my next blog article, I will discuss what conditions need to be met for consultative individual decisions and how we can take on this challenge.

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