What does the team say?

April 14, 2022
Often a mediocre decision made by the team is better than a perfect decision made by a single leader.

I encounter a lot of people asking for advice along the lines of “What should my team do in [X] situation?”

These are usually good questions. They usually come from team leads, engineering managers, scrum masters, or someone else in a position of either formal or informal leadership with respect to the team. The team is stuck, or facing some challenge, and the person asking has a genuine desire to help.

I usually offer my best advice, based on my experience and the situation. But there’s one piece of almost universal advice that applies to each one of these situations:

Ask the team what they want to do.

There are truly exceptional situations where the team simply doesn’t have any idea what to do, or their ideas (or attitudes) are destructive. These situations require extra care (because simply telling them what to do is often damaging in these situations). But in most cases, the team has a lot more insight than the leader asking for advice. And even when they don’t, a mediocre decision made by the team is usually better than a perfect decision made by a single leader, as long as the team is able to learn from its mistakes.

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