Monday, May 18, 2009

No Opinion

Anyone who knows me quickly realizes that.. well... I usually have an opinion. 

Should we slip a release to get a bug in? I have an opinion. Is that really a bug? I have an opinion.
How expensive is this feature? I probably have an opinion. Of course, my opinion isn't always the way we wind up going, but that rarely stops me from having one!

Sometimes, though, I really don't have an opinion. Sometimes there isn't one option better than another. Sometimes I'm simply not informed enough to have an opinion. Sometimes I don't even know there's a choice to have an opinion about. In all of those situations, I could form an opinion, but it would just be more likely to be wrong. Better to not have an opinion than to jump to a conclusion.

It's okay to not have an opinion, as long as you know why you don't have an opinion. It lets you know what pieces you're missing.

Of course, having no opinion only works for so long. At some point a decision has to be made and that's probably based, at least in part, on your opinion. The trick, then, is to figure out why you don't have an opinion, get the data you're lacking, and arrive at a well-formed opinion.

Therein lies a the root of a good decision.


  1. Hello Catherine,
    Funny title and good posting you have. This made me think about a saying from a teacher I had previously: If a problem gives you a headache then probably it ain't your problem.

    Perhaps you can say the same about opinions. If an issue doesn't trigger you to an opinion, perhaps the issue shouldn't be yours to judge.

    I can imagine that this only works if you spend enough time to investigate whether you should have an opinion or not. I'm curious which basic questions you would ask to start this investigations.


  2. Jeroen, it's true. Once you've discovered that there is an opportunity for an opinion, you need to take steps to figure out if you need an opinion or not, and then to form one. My questions look something like this:
    1. if I had an opinion, would anyone (including me) care? If no, stop!
    2. What is preventing me from having an opinion?
    3. If someone has more information than I do and is likely to have a more informed opinion that I can trust, can I just defer to him? If yes, stop!
    4. Can I get the information I need? If so, figure out how and get it.

    Usually this is sufficient, at least to point me in the right direction.