Make a Decision, Even an Arbitrary one

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Engineers and architects love detail and data to help make a decision — usually there are so many contrasting options that any is suitable for a given number of environments that the details are the devil, the thing you must address.

What about when there are no supporting details to make a choice? What happens when you have too many options affecting other decisions?

Make a choice. An arbitrary choice, and move on.

There are so many slowdowns during design phases that there are cases we simply need to define one parameter to allow the others to be defined — like a sticky Sudoku game. You need to make a decision.

I’ve been known to say things like “arbitrary: blue pill” — later documenting that options existed, no clear path was available, and a choice was made. My teammates of the Smallfoot project, and in the Motorola DB Team and Architecture teams heard me say often “Arbitrary: second option. Let’s move on”

This does not mean that the choice can not be revisited in the future if new details are discovered, it simply means that “I have no emotion attached to this, I’m just making a decision”. Later changes may need to change design in the first iteration, or may need to be addressed post-beta (where possible: please, let’s just deliver something functional first? If it doesn’t cause the sky to fall, let’s refactor on the second deliverable or in parallel)

Don’t be afraid to make a decision.

Tag it as such.

If you’re working in a different country, culture, or a second language, be sure to define what the word “arbitrary” means 🙂

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