It’s OK to say NO

Agile Development Methodologies 101
January 2, 2013
Self Motivation
January 2, 2013
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January 22, 2009

In my professional experience:

  1. I did not always have a Team to work with;
  2. I did not always have a Team Lead to report to.

Most of the time, I used to work on Individual Projects assigned to me by the Management. Currently I belong to two teams (Product Management and the Network Team) and I still spend most of my time working on various Individual Projects.

In an environment where I have two team leads and multiple management members to report to, it is often difficult to make everyone realize the current items you are working on.

This results into:

  1. Difficulty in prioritizing
  2. Uncontrolled assignment of work (Work load increases)
  3. Wrong judgment in terms of assigning the correct work to the correct people.

With my 16 years of experience, one of the most important skills I have developed is to judge when it is right to say “No” to an assigned task. It is not always the correct accept all the projects which have been assigned to you. While your team lead does make the best judgment in assigning the task, it is also your responsibility to evaluate your skill set and your current list of priorities to accept the task.

Based on my experience I use a starter kit of questions to evaluate when it’s OK to say NO to an assigned project:

  1. Do I have the bandwidth to take another project?
  2. Do I have the right skill set?
  3. Based on my experience, will this project succeed? Does this project need more planning?

There have been instances when I have personally met the management team and/or the team lead, explained them my skill set and I have provided them with a valid reason as to why I would not be able to take the assigned project. It should be noted that saying “No” to a senior management is not the easiest of the tasks. You need the courage and the motivation to go to the team lead and explain them the same.

By this exercise, the management/team lead is well informed in advance about my thoughts. They then have the time to make the right decision and assign the project/task to another team member. I can now concentrate on my existing projects and complete them on time without any other distractions which might affect my quality of work. The team leads are confident in you as you have given them your honest opinion and prevented any last minute confrontation of backing out of the project.

By learning to say ‘no’ to projects that don’t fit your targeted strategy, you’ll often end up with more time and energy to say ‘yes’ when it really counts.

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