Narrow Input Over Time

Narrowing input over time will lead to more efficient decision-making and shipped software.

In the Beginning

In the beginning of a project or development of a feature, you want as much input as you can get. You have brainstorming sessions. No ideas are off the table. And everyone who might have an interest in the project is invited to participate. You announce far and wide that the project is afoot, and now is the time to come and have your say. There's a lot to discover, and anybody and everybody should volunteer what they know and want. Afterward, you share widely the results of first conversations.


Once you've had the first n sessions of brainstorming, it's time to synthesize what you've heard. Not all ideas will meld well together. Not all ideas will fit well into the vision of the project. You start culling out some of the brainstorming, and the best ideas are now floating to the top.

You might have follow-up meetings. You will share your iterations with the stakeholders that have cared enough to stay connected to your project. They may offer refinements that you can integrate into the project plan. Things are starting to come together.

There are some straggling stakeholders that may show up at this point. They couldn't make the first brainstorming sessions, or even the third. They want a say, and you give them a voice, and you also inform them that things are under way, and your plan has started to take shape already. You thank them for their interest and input.

Late Stage

Now things have begun to take shape. Through research, input and iteration you have honed in on the real problem to solve and the best-fitted solution to develop.

You are taking less input at this point. Most of the time, you don't go seeking it. You're definitely not brainstorming any more. You are refining. You may want to test and prototype parts of your plan to ensure they'll work. Now it is time. Enough talk, let's dev.

The Best Case

The above is really a best-case scenario of narrowing input. Inputs were wide, and then they tapered off. Movement was essentially always forward-moving -- toward sufficient understanding and the start of development.

In order to have this experience, please beware of potential pitfalls to your efficient decision-making.

Beware: Insufficient Input

If, at the beginning of the project, you don't identify and invite input from all the appropriate stakeholders, you may have a problem later. Maybe someone has pertinent details that would change the intended implementation for the better. Maybe someone knows why your vision for the project doesn't fit with greater strategy and needs adjusted. Maybe someone else just had a strong opinion that he felt the need to voice and will find his platform one way or the other.

Beware: Late-stage Appearances

A stakeholder who is not included in the beginning, and who wants to show up, will show up. And he'll show up late. And he could blow up your progress. It could be a request that doesn't fit with the vision or the implementation. If it's very far afield (and you act on the input), it could take you all the way back to the beginning.

Inform this stakeholder of previous venues that have been had for discussion. Make invites for next time. If this person has organizational clout, you will be tempted to give way and maybe should. Before you do, consider your confidence in your vision and planned implementation. If you have reasoned well, you will stand firmer, and this project's efficient progress will continue.

Beware: Sunk Costs

Sometimes we do find out things that should alter or scrap our plans. Consider such a possibility. Don't believe that just because you've put in time and effort that you'll be successful. If you come to disbelieve in your vision or plan, be willing to scrap it, take the learnings and try something different.

Your input has narrowed over time. You have avoided distraction and derailment. Now act.