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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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13.2. Things happen when you say no

One side effect of having priorities is how often you have to say no. It's one of the smallest words in the English language, yet many people have trouble saying it. The problem is that if you can't say no, you can't have priorities. The universe is a large place, but your priority 1 list should be very small. Therefore, most of what people in the world (or on your team) might think are great ideas will end up not matching the goals of the project. It doesn't mean their ideas are bad; it just means their ideas won't contribute to this particular project. So, a fundamental law of the PM universe is this: if you can't say no, you can't manage a project.(2)

Saying no starts at the top of an organization. The most senior people on a project will determine whether people can actually say no to requests. No matter what the priorities say, if the lead developer or manager continually says yes to things that don't jive with the priorities, others will follow. Programmers will work on pet features. PMs will add (hidden) requirements. Even if these individual choices are good, because the team is no longer following the same rules, nor working toward the same priorities, conflicts will occur. Sometimes, it will be disagreements between programmers, but more often, the result will be disjointed final designs. Stability, performance, and usability will all suffer. Without the focus of priorities, it's hard to get a team to coordinate on making the same ...

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