One frustration that I often hear from teams of leaders is that, although they discuss items over and over and over in meetings, the meetings often end with no decision. Sometimes it seems like people feel more frustrated over “no decision” than a bad decision. Yet, the complexities of our day—perhaps more poignantly in local government—make it almost impossible to be sure that you are ever making, with certainty, “the right decision.” Many times the choices are between bad and worse and the data changes so rapidly that it’s difficult to even convince yourself that you are making the right decision—not to mention a fickle public. Thus, the rise of the “No Decision!”
Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Decisive, offer several really good questions that can help leaders move beyond the “No Decision Syndrome”:
- Imagine that the option you’re currently leaning toward simply vanished as a feasible alternative. What else could you do?
- Imagine that the alternative you are currently considering will actually turn out to be a terrible decision. Where could you go looking for the proof of that right now?
- How can you dip a toe in the decision without diving in headfirst?
- [For personal decisions] What would you tell your best friend to do, if he/she were in the same situation?
- [For professional decisions] If you were replaced tomorrow, what would your successor do about your dilemma?
- Six months from now, what evidence would make you retreat from this decision? What would make you double-down?
Interestingly, it may be that we are looking for decisions to accomplish more than is actually reasonable. It probably won’t solve all of your problems; it’s also doubtful that it will unravel the universe or change life on the planet as we know it. Perhaps, instead, we should use the logic that they give us in these questions and focus more on the kind of leaders and the kind of organization we want to become. Make the decision that moves you in the direction that you want to go. Make the decision that will mark you as the kind of leader and person, team and organization, that you aspire to be. But don’t go into denial by thinking that putting off a decision that demands to be made isn’t, after all, a decision in itself.