Tell Her No

Yesterday, I was teaching a class where many of the attendees were from the same company. They had one major issue: At almost every Sprint, either the Product Owner or a Stakeholder would add one or more stories in the middle of the Sprint. I find this to be a common problem. Indeed, the new stories are often very important. Still, that is not necessarily an excuse for adding them. (Can’t they wait until the next Sprint? Don’t they want to know what the real Velocity of the team is?)

This is a complex problem.

Sometimes it is as simple as “Tell Her No.” This is a song by The Zombies. A little fun might make it easier to say no. See here. (And remember the ever-friendly quote: “What is it about no you don’t understand?”)

While we must be compassionate, (do I always say no when I should?), we must say no in a nice way. My yes means very little if I can’t say no. I recommend this book by my friend, Bill Ury. He also co-wrote “Getting To Yes.”


Often the no is much easier to accept when we explain the positive reason behind why we are saying no. Again, no isn’t always the right answer. This is a more complex problem, but often we just need to Tell Her No.


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2 thoughts on “Tell Her No

  1. Craig

    Yes, but…

    Actually a very hard thing to do for many people.

    One good technique to start with is asking for time to go away and think about the impact to the existing work.

  2. Joe Little

    Yes, and…
    You are absolutely right. And all the more reason to make the issue visible. And to laugh about it a bit.

    Bill Ury’s book helps you realize that the No can be expressed more as a Yes to something more valuable. Helps us and the receiver of the no deal with it better. Perhaps even happily.

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