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Posted on: Saturday, November 27, 2010

You have gathered for a meeting. This one is not the casual sitting around the fire, chatting about the meaning of life and discussing the movie at the theatre in the next block, meeting.

This is serious business. You know it. Your boss knows it. His boss knows it too. They are all there. Pumped up. There to take a decision about the features that we will need to build in the next one month to wipe out the competition or maybe to pick a framework for your next project.

"So, do you think we can ship by end of this month?"

"Which framework do you think we should build this using?"

"How many more people do we need to get this done by the end of the month?"

Yeah. I know. Its tempting.

"Gee Boss, I think we should build this using Dot Net Nuke and hire about three interns and a senior engineer on the team."

Bad move.

Shut up!

When you are in a meeting your job, as a manager, leader or whatever it is that you call yourself or see yourself as, is to avoid decisions from being taken over a single meeting. Classical business analysts and managers will tell you that this is because you need to protect the team from your upper management. That explanation is almost always bullshit. Your team does not need protection from the upper management.

If your upper management is getting you on a meeting and asking you these questions chances are that you are one lucky son of a gun who has landed with a really strong senior management team who cares enough to ask you what you need.

That doesn't mean that you have to give them an answer right away though. Like I said, Shut up. You need some think time on the time your team is going to take working on this. You need to see if Dot Net Nuke really fits what you are trying to build, or will you just end up building yet another Frankenstein.

Overall organizational decisions taken in a single meeting are equally risky. So Fred miss utilized the corporate credit card. You are in a meeting discussing the problem. Someone three levels above you hastily panics. "So, do you think we need to stop the corporate credit cards for everyone? Are they really needed?" - Again, temptation to give your instant opinions. This is one isolated incident. Maybe it needs an overall organization policy change. Maybe it does not.

Whatever it is, the only thing that I can tell you is that you do not need to decide the solution over that meeting.

Breathe. What you need to do in this situation is protect yourself and your management from one of the biggest threats of the software development world: Panic.

When you are in a meeting, the pressure to take the right decision is  immense. Chances are that you are not going to be able to Blink well in this scenario. The solution, the right solution to the problem is most likely to show up tomorrow morning, in the shower.

When you answer in a meeting, your management listens to you and decides to move in a particular direction, all of it happening during that one meeting, you block the possibility of the best solution showing, in the shower the next day.

As tempted as you might be to open your mouth during that meeting, shut up. Sleep over the problem. Give it some soak time. Chances are that the solution you have the next morning will be much better than the solution you have during the meeting .

When it doubt, choose silence over spontaneous reactions in meetings. You are not going to make the best of the decisions in a meeting when you are surrounded by people and have precisely a couple of minutes to react and take a decision. Go on. Defer your decisions. Ask for soak time. Most of your important decisions deserve at least a night long think time and what you need to do, is learn how to ask for it. Blatantly and clearly.

I wish you good luck.