Is your project opinion or data-driven?

“Do what I say.” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

How about: “This is our strategy”.

“The Management decided…”

“To let us grow…”

“This is for the sake of our project”.

“I’ve done some research, and here is what we’ll do…”.


Project decisions, those regarding the choice of tools, testing methods, or which direction we are going, should be made based on data.

Unfortunately, the longer I work on IT projects, the more often I get the impression that most of the important decisions are authority-driven or opinion-driven. I love the term HIPPO (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) from Gordon Guthrie’s post.

First things first – opinion is always OPINION. No matter if it’s good or bad. Somebody made his/her mind. Period.
Data are independent. They are just figures, numbers, graphs. Without emotional connections, biases, or social influence.

Our brains are extremely self-centered and suggestible. Moreover, each of us wishes to see our information bubble. Even when we try to be objective, it turns out, that when making decisions we do not take into account all the options available. I recommend to my Polish readers the book by Miłosz Brzeziński: “Wy wszyscy moi ja”, in which this topic is presented in details.

In short, we operate much more efficient, both in private and professional life, if we can consult our ideas with other people. I mean people with more, similar and less experience than ours in a given field. This approach allows us to look at the problem from many angles that we would probably never have thought of ourselves.

We must remember that a wrong decision means a cost. Money is not always a cost. This can be technical debt, loss of customer or team trust, and the introduction of adverse changes to the system that will be very difficult to reverse in the future.


Let me give you an example.

A testing team grows.
They select tools and skills to let themselves work better and more effectively.
As they are not widely experienced, they try to work on a solution, that would serve their needs.

They choose the toolset, direction, and plan for the future.

Unfortunately, they have a manager, who “knows better”, a manager, who “done this before”, “used another tool before”.

In the end, our solution-seeking test team must use a tool that they don’t understand or that doesn’t quite match the specifics of the project, struggle with the technology that they don’t want to use, and are simply frustrated.

Why of why

I try to find good intentions in people. It’s not that the decision-maker is trying to make someone angry. The problem is that our cognitive limitations inevitably simplify the world, and give us ideas that we already know instead of those, which fit the situation.

Additionally, I know managers who are so attached to their position in a corporation, labeled with a grade number, that they don’t look below that level and don’t seek value in talking to the teams.
They are guided by “experience” and “good intentions”.
And yet, it is the communication, exchanges of views, or even quarrels that bring value, open up new spaces for discussion and project development.

How to prevent opinion-driven development and minimise the risk?

Luckily, all of us can prevent opinion-driven management.
How to do it?
When you are a team member – start by asking the question WHY. Don’t give up and keep repeating it.
What is more, no matter if you are a manager or not:

  • Collect project data
  • Collect metrics and share the among team members and with your managers
  • Talk to everyone – confront your point of view
  • Don’t invent the wheel – there are plenty of examples – which you can start from
  • Everyone can be mistaken from time to time, it’s ok to fail – It’s important to learn from it.

Those may be the data collected from sprints, Excel sheets, figures calculated over your work. All of those matters. Analyze them and make wise decisions. Keep trying.
Eventually, no tool, methodology, language o approach is given forever (I hope) 🙂

It may sound like a paradox but, as professor Adam Grant says, people, who try over and over again are not afraid of trying, get better results than those, who plan in detail and then act or do not even try.

I recommend you his TED speech:

And how about you? Do you collect data? Do you use them?

Published by Kinga Witko

Author, Blogger, QA specialist, Agile Tester, cruelty-free. Sugar - free food lover.

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