When Action Leads to the Wrong Result

The following was originally published in Mike Cohn's monthly newsletter. If you like what you're reading, sign up to have this content delivered to your inbox weeks before it's posted here.

I started a new project last month for which I'm the product owner. (You'll read more about it here soon.) This has got me thinking about product owners and wondering which one of these three quotes reveals who would be the best product owner:

“Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.” - Benjamin Franklin

"Never do today what you can do tomorrow. Something may occur to make you regret your premature action." - Aaron Burr

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” - Mark Twain

Let's consider who would be the best product owner. Ben Franklin would have me prioritize as much as possible into today, or at least into the current sprint. That sounds good. We'll get more value into the hands of our users that way.

But what about Aaron Burr as our product owner? He makes a great point: If the product can get by another day without the new feature, why add it today? Something may change--maybe I'll think of an even better idea--and then I may regret my premature action.

Hmm, but Mark Twain goes Burr one better. Putting action off even further could reveal even more information, and more information could indicate a different course of action.

Sometimes action is called for--and we really should follow Franklin's advice to do today what we can. But sometimes a rush to act or to make a decision leads to the wrong result. After all, we are learning every day on our projects and some decisions deserve to be made tomorrow, when I'll be one day smarter. Or perhaps the day after tomorrow.