At a conference years ago Don Reinertsen and I were watching from the back of the room and sometimes making private comments about the presentations. At one point it was clear that there was a pattern of “this or that” – mostly relating to flow or iterations. Don made a funny observation “these folks have been around 1s and 0s too long.” I chucked at this since I had had the same feeling.

This attitude is very pervasive everywhere. Notice how many times someone says something and a person hearing it will respond as if the only alternatives are the extreme cases of what’s been mentioned. For example, if someone says “there is a degree of predictability” in development someone else may say “you can’t predict everything.”

We have choices between the extremes. A well-known bit of life coaching advice is never to make a decision when you only have two alternatives. “Decide” means to “kill off” options. But what you want to do is to take the two points and understand the dimension in which you are looking at things. Always have a third alternative, even if it seems to be worse than either of the first two you have.

In the Agile space, we’re still making these binary decisions.  We look at Scrum as a thing and Kanban as a thing. Scrum has the cross-functional team be sacrosanct and David Anderson says “visualization not reorganization.” There is power to both. Both are proxies for what we need to do.

Don’t immediately go to extremes.  Consider the issues being dealt with. Create options. Go a step deeper than most people do.

If someone suggests something, before responding, look to see if there is a middle ground between what was said and what you were going to say. A small amount of thinking before responding can save a lot of time in debating when we should be focused on learning.

Scott Fitzgerald once said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”


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