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Coaching Leadership

Timeboxing Exploration

It’s easy to fall into the trap of Analysis Paralysis. One more bit of data, a couple more answers to a survey, the feelings of that final stakeholder.

Whenever we are in an uncertain time, you can think that it’s best to get to certainty before trying to act.

It’s a false premise, fight that urge.

Most of the information that you need to make a decision will be easy to gather, and the last few pieces will be a lot more expensive and probably less valuable.

So instead, set aside a timebox to do this exploration and to gather information. I find it works best if you are clear about what you are trying to learn, what the decision is you are trying to make, and also honest about what you know now.

By making decisions based on a fixed amount of data collection, you can move on to actually seeing how the analysis you’ve done holds up in the real world, and start on any course corrections early.

Pick shorter timeboxes for smaller decisions. If it’s low impact or low risk, don’t waste much time on it at all. If you are investing a couple of weeks work for the team, then spending a few hours to validate assumptions is great. Spend a couple of days on your plans for the quarter, and a week or two to set a annual strategy.

You need to be disciplined, and actually stop and make the decision once you hit the limit of the timebox. So start with the smaller activities to build confidence and go from there.

Once you’ve done the analysis, made the decision and implemented the outcome, then review the outcomes to see how you did.

The way to make good decisions is to make lots of them, to learn what went well and to do more of that. You get there by focusing your exploration time, learning the most important things, making that decision and doing it all over again!

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