On an important decision, one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. — Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant as Leader

Indecision rarely leads to anything positive. In my 35 years of experience working with clients, I have seen enough snafus, courtesy of a reluctance or unwillingness to make a decision, to know that any decision would have propelled the organization forward or at least broken the log jam. If you are one of those hesitating or hugely disinclined to make a mistake (as we all are), here are some pointers I give my clients:

YOU DON’T NEED ALL THE INFORMATION TO MAKE A DECISION. Very often you have enough information based on experience (knowledge gleaned from past mistakes and successes) and objective data. If 20% of a problem isn’t well understood, go with the 80% that is. Today’s competitive market isn’t conducive to lollygagging.

IT MAY NOT BE ALL UP TO YOU. SOUND OPERATING PRINCIPLES SHOULD DIRECT YOUR DECISION-MAKING. Most organizations have a Mission Statement and Operating Principles that support it. For example, Starbuck’s Mission is to “ inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” and their operating principles focus on quality in their product, diversity and respect among their partners, and making their cafés a haven of humanity as well as contributors to the community. What are yours? What are the Operating Principles that will create the culture and guide the behaviors leading you to your goals? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • We focus our resources on activities that differentiate our organization
  • We use all resources efficiently and individuals to the best of their abilities
  • We continually seek better practices and processes
  • We challenge each other to achieve excellence
  • We encourage the exchange of ideas and perspectives from every level of the organization, and use conflict as an opportunity for creativity and innovation
  • We encourage and support risk-taking among team members to facilitate professional growth
  • We recognize, value and reward collaboration and teamwork

If sound operating principles are developed and agreed upon, 90% of the decisions facing an organization will already be made.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A BAD DECISION, ONLY A MISINFORMED ONE. Once better information comes to light, take corrective action. If you have based the initial decision on the 80% known and your Operating Principles, the fix should be an easy one.

Finally, make your decisions REAL by assigning responsibility and accountability. Set milestones with deadlines and consequences for missing them. . .otherwise, decisions are merely good intentions, and we all know where those lead.