⚽️ Play well with your team by asking "Who has the ball?" for each important topic over time

The Problem

Sometimes there is more than one person who could do something. How do we avoid stepping on each other's toes or even worse – leaving the problem unsolved because everyone thinks it's someone else's job?

Some examples:

  • An email arrives from a client: Who should answer?
  • The client makes a request on Slack: Who will respond?
  • We're preparing for a meeting: Who will take the lead?
  • The Product Owner is going on vacation: Who will make a product decision?
  • The Tech Lead is sick and there's an important architectural decision to be made: Who should make it?

In most teams we have various processes and tools to help us. We have roles and responsibilities.

But that is not always enough, is it.

What if the usual person is not available? What if it's a cross-team collaboration? What if one person is currently overloaded? What if someone wants to learn?

What if … what if … what if …

Real life is more complex than predefined rules can completely regulate.

The Solution

Here's one thing that helps.

As the Python community figured out: explicit is better than implicit.

So in situations where it's not 100% clear (and in some situations where you think it is):

Ask the other people who are involved: Who has the ⚽️?

The one with the ball is not the king of the universe. They might also not be the captain of that particular team.

But they're running with the ball right now. They decide which direction to take and where to kick it next.

Asking this question will help you and your team reduce the chance of stepping on each other's toes or ignoring an important issue.