Why we delay making decisions

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09/09/2013 by Chris Green


Why do we put off making the hard decision? Often we are looking for answers in two areas to line up. But in reality they may never do so, and our desire to wait for them is what holds us back.

20130909-113305.jpgThis is the search for precision over what we should do. What would it cost? Who would do it, and does she have the time? Will it fit in the calendar?

20130909-113358.jpgThis is the search for precision over whether we should do it. What are the risks? What don’t we know yet? Have we looked at all the alternatives?

20130909-113242.jpgIn our moments of big decisions, we want to operate in the safe overlap between these two, when both we are sure of both sets of answers.

The problem (and I got this from ’The Five Temptations of a CEO’ by Patrick Lencioni and is typically brilliant) is that it’s much easier to answer all the Clarity questions than the Certainty ones, because there’s always an element of the unknown in that second set which we can never remove. The more we try to remove that unknown element, the longer we will delay.

20130909-113415.jpgBetter, says Lencioni, to move with absolute clarity but tolerable certainty – and take the risk. That’s what leadership involves. The possibility that you might have made a different decision in a year’s time had you known one more fact. But doing it now anyway, because you don’t know.

That’s the zone to act in.

And, of course, we are serving a Lord who has foreseen and foreknown it all anyway, so ‘risk’ is wrapped around by ‘trust’.

Think it through

Consider a decision you’re facing right now and where you’re holding back, and analyse it in terms of Clarity and Certainty. Are you waiting for the two circles to overlap, or are you willing to take a risk?

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