The Future As Seen By Me In 2010

Well looky here, things one has scanned in eh. (ignore the photo, that's some guy that made some accounting software, not sure what became of him ;) MIKE RIVERSDALE is fuming. The expensive headphones he bought in Sydney three weeks ago have just died. His first reaction is not to randomly spill expletives into his coffee, but to use his iPhone to vent his frustration to his Twitter con- tacts, under the moniker Miramar Mike. "I will also put, 'What should I do?' It's a conversation. I'm reaching out to the people following me." The council predicts hand-held digital devices such as smartphones will rule the world in 2040. They already rule the life of Mr Riversdale, whose company WaveAdept helps businesses adapt - their computing sys- tems to allow staff to work from anywhere - and with anyone. In order of fre- equency, he uses his iPhone to tweet (1136 followers; 8363 tweets since joining), e-mail, make phone calls and use online services, such as checki

Giving a useful "No" can provide safety, value, and lead to unexpected great outcomes

It’s just two letters, and yet saying no can feel really hard - even complicated. For many of us, saying no doesn’t just feel awkward. It feels wrong. No-body likes to hear a straight out, "No." without context or reasoning.

That doesn't mean we can't use the word, but we have to be much more empathetic when we say it.

“Saying no is one of the best forms of self-care we can engage in,” Dr. Nicole Washington says, noting that saying "no" supports us in:
Here's a few ways of saying, "No ..." that can help you negotiate your workloads and ensure we make people awesome whilst keeping safety a prerequisite.

"No, not yet"

This leads on to a discussion and hopefully and agreement of both realistic and understandable timings leading to an, "OK, yes starting on Tuesday".

It is rare, but not unheard of, that we are asked to drop everything and jump at that very moment. It can be difficult to gauge timings without asking, "No, not yet" is a perfect valid response but should never be the final word.
"Mike, can you help kick off Project X for me?"
"No, not now. Next week, anytime from Tuesday on, if that would help."
"Nah, that'll be way too late I will go ask ..."

"No, because ..."

Whatever the reason is, state it.

Of course, your reason may not stack up in the long run, but by being clear, open, and honest you are setting the scene for a much more constructive conversation.

Note: When saying no, it’s best for you to provide one compelling reason rather than a list of reasons. When offered a list of reasons, people tend to pick the weakest reason and argue against it.
"Mike, can you help kick off Project X for me?"
"No, because I don't have access to the project information."
"Ah, that makes sense, let me ..."

"No, because our current priority is ..."

As an organisation moves towards a more open and connected one using such approached as roadmaps, Big Room Planning (BRP), Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), SAFe Planning Intervals (PI), and other agile approaches we are surfacing up conflicting priorities. This is fine, exactly what to expect.

These conflicts have always existed but typically they were worked around, hidden, left to die in the corner, or tackled by people attempting to work all hours they could to deliver multiple clashing #1, VERY IMPORTANT, MUST DO, DO THIS NOW items. This is NOT making people awesome, and is certainly not making safety a prerequisite.

If it's a matter of timing then see "No, not yet" above.

However, if it is a matter of truly clashing #1 priorities then it's likely to be surfaced by a lack of people (or resources such as $ or equipment). Working on two #1 priorities is easy when we have teams sitting around waiting for the call - do you?

So, what to do?

Bring the parties together. Explain why you cannot work on Item A and Item B at the same time. And then step away, let the instigators of A and B work out what brings the highest value, re-prioritise (or re-time). If this cannot be successfully concluded then up the chain it goes, it is not for us all to determine the value between two competing items (unless it is your job, and if it is, be prepared to make the call).

(Think of agile frameworks such as BRP and PI as the pointy end of this, but the conversations should be happening daily, weekly, and definitely on a monthly basis)
"Mike, can you help kick off Project X for me?"
"No, because I have to complete this code for Nicky."
"But this is for Jen!"
"Let me get a quick Meet with you, Nicky, and I and you two can make the call."
"Oh, that code is for Project Y, yes, then I get it, see you once it's done!"

A few last tips gleaned from around the Web

Explain the Consequences of Saying Yes

When rejecting a request, we can all explain the consequences of saying yes. This can help the requestor see why you feel compelled to say no.

Offer an Alternative

Instead of outright saying no, you may be able to offer an alternative.
(think self service, "Google it", or Intranet for those actions you know they could do themselves).

Establish Visibility

Even with an awareness of how agile works and how it doesn’t, some external teams and customers may still balk at the idea of their “urgent request” being dumped into a backlog; especially if in the past this hasn’t been an issue. To address this key challenge, agile teams should use a simple and streamlined task management tool that lets all access an updated high-level overview of tasks in the workflow, so they can clearly see what is really going on — and do their part to keep workflows flowing.

Open your Jira Projects, share your Trello links ... let people see the work and the value you are delivering and take away the surprise of clashing priorities and resource constraints.

Break Down Requests to (Possibly) Turn No’s into Yes’s

Agile teams should reach into their diplomatic toolkit and see if there is a way to break down requests into something smaller, faster, and more viable. While there is no guarantee that a counter-offer like this will be accepted, it’s worth the effort.

I leave you with a cracking on the nose post for all agile teams - you want examples of saying no at all levels of your organisation, here ya go
Programs, portfolios and projects – most organizations are running too many programs, portfolios and/or projects simultaneously. Say NO to some of them! Concentrate on what the organization can do well, and profitably. Monitor status and shut down underperforming projects so other projects can have additional help. Do not throw good money after bad!

Further reading and sources


  1. So true Mike. I used to be a real people pleaser. Then I was recommended the book Not Nice by Dr. Aziz Gazipura. It’s not just a book, it’s a workbook. I am now so much more comfortable saying no, in a tactful way!


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