Eliminating uncertainty can be excessive

We sometimes think we want to eliminate uncertainty. Clarity is helpful in our projects and in our businesses. When I listen to discussions about Brexit (today’s status: approaching the leave date without knowing what will happen then) we hear about businesses wanting certainty.

All this is fine, but in fact that’s not always strictly true. Or at least, eliminating uncertainty isn’t always a desirable thing. I found someone else articulated this very well the other day. We were discussing various options for a project, and what we knew about each option, including uncertainties that remained within each one. Someone asked when we’d be able to say that we’d answered all the remaining questions, and he replied, “If we drive out all the uncertainty we’ve put too much effort into it”.

I liked that comment very much. We only needed to know which options to pursue further, and we could eliminate some other options without knowing everything about them. One was far too expensive; another was clearly not a strategic match… we could say No to them even with other questions about them remaining.

Working inspired by agile practices allows us to operate very well even with some uncertainty. This helps us move forward with speed and save unnecessary time and money.

Photo by Travis Wise