You and your leadership team are facing a decision, so you gather a wealth of data – and then you gather some more. You have thoughtful and intelligent conversations about the issue in meeting after meeting. You analyze it from every angle, with each member of the team contributing the benefit of their experience, their perspective, and their insight. Around and around the discussion goes … and around and around again.
When we come upon this leadership situation, we have – literally – one word of advice: Decide!
Why Teams Struggle to Decide
The struggle to make a decision is almost always founded upon fear:
- Fear that the team is missing some important piece of information.
- Fear that taking a particular direction will hurt the business.
- Fear of missing an opportunity over here because the team decides to go over there.
- Fear of being wrong.
Fear can paralyze your leadership team, stopping you from making the decisions you need to make. Instead, you continue doing what you have been doing: getting more data, performing more analysis, having more meetings … all as an excuse to avoid making a decision.
The Importance of Picking a Lane
If your leadership team is wavering in this way, it is time to pick a lane. Accept that you will never have perfect information. Neither can you predict the future. But, the fastest way to get better information and guide the future direction of your business is to make a decision. Once you make a decision, you will see its effect on your organization, customers, sales, etc. This will give you a whole new set of information to work with, regardless of whether your decision was to move forward with a certain action or not.
For example, suppose your leadership team is trying to decide whether to hire a senior marketing leader. You have a junior marketer who excels in execution, but you do not have someone with deep experience and expertise. If you decide to hire a senior marketer, you will promptly find out what they can (or cannot) contribute to the organization. If you decide not to hire someone, you will find out what you can (or cannot) do with your current resources. In the latter case, you might discover that your junior marketer can actually come up with very creative thinking. Or that other employees can collaborate with the junior marketer to get the job done. Or that, yes, you really do need to hire a marketing heavyweight to accomplish your goals.
You Can Always Change Lanes
If the thought of picking a lane still causes you to freeze, remember: just because you pick a lane doesn’t mean you have to stay in it. You can change lanes at any time based on the new information you get. In business lingo, that is what agility means, or – as we hear so much during the current pandemic – the ability to pivot.
Bear in mind that most decisions you make are not “bet the company” decisions. As with the above scenario, if you hire someone and it doesn’t help you move toward your objectives, you can let them go. If you don’t hire someone and find out you should have, you can start soliciting resumes.
And if you do have a “bet the company” decision in front of you, move incrementally. Decide to experiment in a small way before making a full commitment. Each decision you make will give you information that will fuel the next decision.
Accept the fact that, as a leadership team, you will never have the comfort of perfect information. So, get the best information you can in a reasonable timeframe, assess the issue, and make a decision. When you pick a lane, you have the opportunity to move forward rapidly. And if you find that the lane you are in isn’t the best, no worries: you can always pick a new lane.