Team MeetingAt many companies decisions and prioritization tends to be done by committees, in fact Agile itself tends to be very committee driven (the team estimates together, the team determines how things will get done, etc…).

But the Product Owner (or Product Manager in traditional terms) is the key person who’s accountable for the results. They prioritize the projects and features, define desired outcomes, ensure profitability, and accept/reject results.

In the real world many people may have a stake in projects as they are either sponsoring the project, supporting the project, or are affected by the project. So as a Product Owner you will have to interface with stakeholders and sponsors to get their feedback, issues, goals, etc…

Likewise, a Project Manager/ScrumMaster might encounter similar situations where they are trying to garner consensus and agreement.

The problem however is that large committees rarely are capable of making decisions.

Once you’ve got 7 people in a decision-making group, each additional member reduces decision effectiveness by 10%, according to Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, authors of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization. Thus, a group of 17 or more rarely makes any decisions.



  • Hold a series of smaller sessions (e.g. instead of one 10 person meeting, have two separate 5 person meetings).
  • Pre-meet in advance with individuals to gather their feedback, stance, concerns, requirements to that you can factor that in and further prepare for the main meeting.
  • Instead of starting with a blank slate and trying to work with the committee to collaborative decide/plan/prioritize/etc… gather initial data and create a good starting point – e.g. a draft plan, and then let people argue/discuss over it.
  • Always make sure your management supports where you want to go so that they back you up behind the scenes.

4 Responses to “Large decision making groups are ineffective – work around them”

  1. This was Tomsulas and Chrysts first shot at Seattle and it was a short week. Harbaugh with more talent and more time last season scored 7 and 3 points respectively. The logic in this article that would support this team would have done better with a different approach is flawed. More practice and even with more talent yielded essentially the same results. My opinion is that right now seattle is just better. Nothing Tomsula does will change the fact that Devey the right guard is little more than a speed bump that makes Pears and Martin look worse than they really are. The defense only gave up 20 points which is almost identical to what the defense yielded in the last 2 meetings.

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