Product Innovation Trends

Put a #decision on it…

I can’t help but notice more prominence given to decisions these days by our fellow local techsters. For instance, sort-of-Portland company Jive launched the ability to mark decisions in their discussions and Joe Stump of Portland’s referenced the importance of decisions on his excellent blog excerpted here (emphasis on “decision” mine):

This is harmful because, as a business, you’re trying to hire the best and brightest folks across your organization. By not allowing your employees to operate on the same data across the organization, you breed a culture of assembly-line workers: folks who don’t ask questions, just do what they’re told. This is not what you want the best and brightest to be doing.

The key behind solving this issue is sharing the whys behind decision. By coloring in some of the context around why a feature is necessary, you allow lateral thinking among your employees. If I, as an engineer, can accomplish the same “why” for a given story but with dramatically less work than the proposed implementation plan, that’s better for everyone involved.

The takeaway is that it’s important for organizations to get more visibility into key decisions. We’re really excited here at Jama because we’re bringing this concept to product delivery – we’ve opened up decision-making to everyone across an organization who has a stake in what’s being delivered. With our recent launch of Jama Spring 2013, we’ve introduced #decision and #decisionneeded tags in our Collaboration Stream. These tags serve as big flags attached to product delivery items, they say “look at me” and point to the relevant details providing context around exactly what’s impacted.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a big fan of any conversation that accrues while a product delivery team is doing its thing, but I also realize that some conversations are more important than others in the eyes of stakeholders outside of the product delivery team. These folks don’t have time to follow every low-level status change or comment made and piece together how it impacts what matters most to them and respond accordingly.

Slapping a #needsdecision tag on a comment attached to a project or release or goal or feature story (or whatever you’re working with) elevates the call to action above the noise of general conversation. It arms all interested parties with relevant context around what it impacts, so everyone who cares can participate in the discussion around the “how”s and “whys” of that impact, explore the “what-ifs” representing the options, and in general have a voice in the final decision.

Similarly, a #decision effectively puts the the final punctuation on that conversation, and makes it available for everyone to review and reference later. It also helps avoid the dreaded “what did we end up deciding about that again?” discussion in the future that inevitably involves combing through email and IM archives, scanning through whiteboard photos, or re-creating the original discussion.

By providing everyone with easy access to the decision-making conversation, we’re seeing another simple but powerful benefit. Product delivery team members discover what’s most important to whom and why, which helps fill in the big picture guiding the team.

So we’ve been using #decision and #decisionneeded tags for months here at Jama, and it’s been truly exciting to watch the explosion of meaningful threads collecting around key decision points, and the variety of faces participating in these threads. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ll end with a quick visual of what decisions powered by Jama look like: