Don’t Let Making a Decision Stop You Taking One

Insight #204

“Come on, people! We need some courage here.”

. . .

Did you notice how quickly some major decisions were made recently? And how other major decision were, as they say, kicked down the road?

Actually, forget “recently.” Deciding or delaying seems to be the norm, irrespective of the size and impact of the decision. Interestingly, the same people can decide or dither, depending on the time, the day, the topic, the mood. Who knows why?

I know, I know. The obvious answer is a lack of information. Actually, that is seldom the reason. More often, it is the common excuse. Let’s use the average organization as an example. Like yours. Why do decision-makers in your organization take so long to make a decision?

Here are the two main reasons they vacillate. (I’m sure there are more reasons, but I want to show off my ability to form an opinion quickly and to decide.)

The first reason is a lack of courage.

Consider the difference between making and taking a decision. Making a decision is the entire process of reaching a point where you are ready to take the decision. When you take something, it’s yours. So, once you take a decision, you own it. That takes courage.

Whereas if you are making a decision, well, you could stretch it out indefinitely. That takes less courage.

The other reason has to do with the hierarchy of power and authority. The steeper the pyramid, the more people get involved in a decision. Intuitively, that seems incorrect. Surely, steeper means fewer people? Let me explain.

In flat hierarchies, decision power is delegated downwards. It’s called empowerment. Empowerment has a way of speeding things up. Because fewer people are involved in taking the decision. And owning it.

In steeper hierarchies, decisions are delegated upwards. (Get the boss to stick his neck out.) This gets more people involved in the making of the decision, but not in the taking of the decision. Obviously, this can slow things down dramatically. But it has the real benefit of spreading the risk. And the blame.

Oh, you’re right. That’s also just a lack of courage.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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