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May 16

The Paradox of choice

We al talk about wanting to have more choices. But is having many choices a good thing. The more we have to decide on, the less we get what we really like in the end. When working with scrum, everything has to do with making choices. A developer does not like that someone tells him or her what or even more, how to do things. But leaving someone with to many options is also not good. Their should be boundaries. The choices need to be limited in order to gain progress. So how does that work in an agile environment. Do we need to let people decide on everything or do we want to limit this. Fortunately most agile work models are based on the fact that we try to steer them with business value. But in a lot of cases we don’t and forget this value decision method. We don’t see the benefit to do so and therefore make decisions on what is cool to build. What is new and exiting to program (no developer wants to do the same stuff over and over again). And we make decisions on the easy way out. But think of what happens if al choices are only based on business value. All other arguments, values and important things are left aside. Does that limit your freedom. Maybe so. But it makes the choice far more easier. This is the reason we need to ask why we want a certain feature. When writing a user story we easily can think of the “for who” and “what” but “why” is always very difficult. And yet it is the most important questions of all. If you can’t decide why you want something build, and the reason is not because of a kind of value for the business (what business is, is something for another blog), then you might end up with to many choices and with that the freedom to actually build something useful. So, business value limits choices, but expands freedom. Kind of creepy but when you think of it also very clear.

Barry Schwarts had a very interesting topic about this on TED

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  • Fully agree with this paradox of choice. Somehow we must learn to balance our choices, bring down the number of choices that we have without limiting ourselves too much. Improve the way that we make and communicate decisions.

    I’ve written a blog some time ago, based upon the same great video from Barry Schwartz, see http://www.benlinders.com/2011/the-paradox-of-choice-why-more-is-less/. It goes into how you can bring down decision taking in your organization, and empower teams.