Decision Making

Sometimes You Just Need To Do It…

Two great articles that articulate the challenges we face each day and the barriers that can push us off-course.

The first is a very funny article by Jay Goltz.  His obsession with delegation is fraught with unexpected results.

The second is thought guru and innovator Seth Godin’s encapsulation of the essence of everything we do.  

The difference between a day where I thrive or survive is predicated on my ability to ask better questions and make better decisions.  How do you thrive?

Are You Part of the No Coalition?


What else do we need to know so we can say ‘yes’ was the question from the back of the room.  Heads turned and the most silent of the meeting’s participants had just thrown us all out of the proverbial express boat to the island of No.  It was a brillant question and it completely energized the staff and supporters of the proposal.  Seconds later sheets of paper were filled with ideas from an immediate brainstorming session.  Obstacles and objections were identified as well as strengths and new points of confluence with on-going initiatives.  With one question the meeting had come to life, ideas were being shared, engagement was soaring, and camaraderie was building.  It is easy to identify one way to say no.  The real talent is discovering strategies that let you say yes.

Seth Godin’s post illustrates the defused power of no with perfection.  I am glad to have seen the collation of no battled in the arena of institutional habits.

Forward or Backwards

When reviewing history, do you do so with the benefit of hindsight or do you appreciate the realities that many decisions were made-it-up as you go.  Listening to NPR’s Fresh Air program today, Terry Gross was speaking to Eric Foner who spoke about the realities of history when taken in a real-time approach.  If you know the ending of the movie it is easy to see how the plot unfolds.  When you research a past event through the lens of that moment, it becomes a different narrative.  Appreciate that reviewing a strategic plan it is easy to see what activities resonated and others that were derailed.  Creating a plan requires a real-time perspective.  You are creating history but cannot judge your achievements until you have decided and taken action. 

Majority Role

Recently, a colleague asked for a recommendation on Twitter.  The vast majority of responses agreed with proposed course of action outlined in the tweet.  Two people were adamantly opposed and offered another solution.  Turns out the minority were uniquely positioned to offer the best recommendation.  If the majority had ruled, the result would have been far less desirable.  Can you weight your decision to acknowledge expertise?  One attorney’s input on a contract may out-weight the conventional wisdom of your advisers.

The Theme for Today is…

What if you simplified your focus.  One theme for the day, week or even year.  Explore, ignite, engage, empower, learn, love, separate, evolve, energize, demand, relax, or decide.

What theme did you select?  Humor yourself for a second and make a decision.  Capture it and place it front and center.  Can you affix a few key phrases or images to your theme?  Once you decide and move away from all other options you are committed.

So much of our time can be spent planning that it is easy to fore-go making any real decisions. Take action.  Answering one big question for your enterprise often yields far greater results than the most detailed strategic plan that preserves the status quo.

Would You Rather

The new season of 30 Rock started on NBC this week.  During this week’s episode Liz Lemon is repeatedly asked, ‘would you rather’ questions.  It struck me that the social sector often plays this game on a regular basis.

Would you rather ask your peers for a donation or make cuts to the budget?
Would you rather pay our most important staff member a very hefty salary or have a competitor recruit her away?
Would we rather put up with the inconsiderate board member who breaks the organizational moral or confront him and endure his anger?

We each have our own, ‘would you rather’ moments.  Often there are additional solutions to the question but we are too busy assessing the options place in front of us.

Serving Somebody Elses Time

One of my mantras when making major decisions for any enterprise is to consider the perspective of the board who follow me.  If a board’s term limit is six years, I am thinking about how a decision today is going to impact the board seven years from now when nobody on the current board will most likely be in the room.  Does the opportunity seem like the appropriate course of action today and years from now?

The downside to poor decision-making is that you are asking a future board to serve time for you.  In some cases poor judgment today is the equivalent of a jail term from a future board.  Consider the investment committees that positioned an enterprise’s funds with Madoff; the board that took on massive debt to build a new facility; a marketing campaign using a celebrity who is later charged with illegal activities.

How do you keep a longer term perspective?  Who speaks for the future board when strategic decisions are being considered?  Do you document the criteria you used to make a decision?

Decision Making IQ

A collective belief on some of the organizations I partner with has been that people with high IQ’s are likely to be better decision-makers. You surround yourself with the best and brightest and then help them excel is the mantra of many leaders. It makes less sense if you think about the outliers- those gifted individuals who have put in 10,000 hours or more perfecting their craft. During a crisis you often see leadership turn to the retired veteran for counsel. Not out of deference but perhaps they have seen something similar during their lifetime and can offer perspective that comes with having been at the helm for a long enough period of time. Great decision-makers comprehend what they understand and readily ask for more information or input to clarify the voids. Regardless of IQ, this is a unique talent and does not come from a single metric.

What would it look like if we created a measure of decision-making abilities? Would there be a reasonable metric? Guy Kawasaki offered the following excerpt in his Alltop blog:

IQ isn’t everything

“A high IQ is like height in a basketball player,” says David Perkins, who studies thinking and reasoning skills at Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It is very important, all other things being equal. But all other things aren’t equal. There’s a lot more to being a good basketball player than being tall, and there’s a lot more to being a good thinker than having a high IQ.”