No is a very tricky word. I often talk about agile teams needing to “just say No” to various things. For example:
- If their Product Owner expects them to deliver more than their capacity
- If their Boss asked them to deliver faster and it would violate their Definition of Done agreements
- If a Team Member continues to “go it alone” and refuses to collaborate as a team
Then I’m looking for the team to say No. Whenever I bring this up in classes or presentations, I always get pushback. Always. Usually its not based on the situation, but to the word. It seems No is a word that nobody likes using in the workplace.
There’s a wonderful video by Henrik Kniberg where he explores the role of the Scrum Product Owner. In it he makes the point that the most important word that a Product Owner can use is No. That it’s incredibly easy to say – Yes to every request. To pretend that things are always feasible or easy. But that No is important. No implies that trade-off decisions need to be made on the part of the customer or the organizations leadership. That the word leads to thinking, discussion, and decision-making.