We all spend more time and energy than we imagine making choices in everyday situations. Its a well researched phenomena that choices (decisions) we make today about the most trivial matters are compounded because we are ‘spoiled for choice’.
The local supermarket stocks 20 different types of toilet paper, 15 different brands of pasta sauce resulting in over 50 different sauces to choose from. It doesn't stop at the supermarket. The fuel that goes in your car now has three or four different variations. If you want to avoid this decision then you could opt for an electric car. Good luck choosing which one and whether it will meet your needs. Decisions, decisions. And this is just the small stuff.What about the big game-changer decisions you need to make about your career or perhaps for the organization in which you work? Which products should go into production and which get dropped? Should you hire more staff? Should you fire staff? Maybe outsourcing is the solution? Perhaps you’d cope if these decisions were single one-offs. But each decision will lead to any number of follow up questions. If I authorize product ‘A’ to go into production, how many units should be made? When shall we start? Should there be a product launch? If I hire more staff; how many? If I fire staff; how many and how do I choose who to let go? The questions and decisions may seem endless - and you’d be right.
Is it any wonder then that business stagnates in the face of difficult decisions? Especially when you realize that one decision conquered actually leads to more decisions required. The tipping point for decision-making is when the outcomes are unknown. It’s a little easier when the outcome is predictable or even considered a certainty. Using my examples again from above, whichever petrol I choose for my car it’s a safe bet that my car will continue to run. Whichever toilet paper I buy I’m pretty confident it’ll do the job its intended for (enough said) and unless I choose some crazy new recipe for my pasta sauce, I’ll enjoy a nice meal.
Facing novel, one-off decisions where the outcome can’t be accurately predicted is when procrastination reigns supreme. Leadership teams can agonize over decisions like this, gathering more data, weighing options, seeking opinions. The result is an unprofitable delay in moving the organization forward. The utopia that the team seeks but is actually ‘waiting’ for is that a clear answer or obvious choice emerges. The guesswork, the gamble, the mystery is suddenly removed. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs.
These types of decisions where there is no clear, right answer may delay an organization for weeks, months, or even years.This is the type of scenario that Emergency Service professionals face every day. Ambiguous situations with tight time frames and rapidly evolving circumstances with no clear right answer in which the experience of the individual and their ability to put into play their ‘best guesses’. The doctor assessing the victim of a car accident prior to commencing treatment, the police officer having to draw and perhaps use their firearm, the fire officer determining whether to send firefighters into a burning house or fight the fire from outside.
There is no clear answer other than the deadline to make a decision before it’s too late.And this is where managers and leaders can move their organization forward. Nothing motivates us more than a deadline. If the issues on the table have been reasonably diagnosed, the choices are mutually attractive, and yet no clear answer is obvious, decide. Just make the decision and move forward.Militaries and Emergency Services have a saying that any decision, even the wrong decision, is better than no decision. Action precedes clarity. If you have chosen poorly then you can fail that choice fast and now you are in possession of more data upon which to reassess.
The time saved by not deliberating continuously will pay huge dividends in productivity.One caveat however, when I say any decision I mean decisions based upon the choices that have been sensibly considered. Yes deciding to paint yourself purple and dance naked in the park is definitely a decision but perhaps won’t solve the organizations problem that your meeting or team is attempting to resolve.
So when you’re stuck in a meeting where you or a team are weighing options and no clear path forward is emerging or too many choices are equally attractive, simply set a deadline for when the decision must be made.You’ll save time and force clarity into the situation. Making the decision - any decision - reduces your anxiety and lets you move forward.