How often have you attended a meeting — or worse, a number of meetings — without any concrete decisions being made or action steps agreed?
Too often the team just seems to be going in circles.
This form of indecisiveness — or paralysis by analysis — plagues many organizations. In fact, some people actually use this as a strategy to avoid being held accountable for the success or failure of any initiative.
This lack of decision-making hurts organizations financially because issues and opportunities are not addressed and it creates a sense of powerlessness with the team members who recognize that nothing is happening. It effectively creates an under-performance malaise that affects the financial goals of the organization and the engagement of the team.
Years ago I worked with a leader who was faced with a team that was unable or unwilling to make a decision. He decided that going forward they would make a decision and then be prepared to adjust that decision if it wasn’t the right one. He felt that they could make a decision; find out it wasn’t the ideal decision and then make a new decision based the new input — faster than they were currently making any decision.
This approach introduced nimbleness to the organization and also sent a signal that people would not be criticized for making a wrong decision. Both excellent messages for any organization.
Here are some tips if you are faced with indecision in your organization
- Ensure people feel safe when making decisions. Of course, decisions need to be made based on good information and thoughtful consideration, but if a decision turns out wrong based on the best use of information at the time, then people should feel safe from criticism.
- Use decisive language in your communication. Confidence and clarity in language sets a tone. Give people honest feedback and discourage indecisiveness. Be clear when providing direction and expect the same from others.
- Ask for opinions and then ensure the opinion is valued — even if everyone doesn’t agree.
- If a decision needs to be delayed, make sure there is a specific reason (i.e. additional information is needed) and establish a time-line to re-group with responsibilities identified to gather the missing information.
- Make sure every meeting ends with a summary of decisions and next steps. Every discussion point should have a concluding next step.
- Ensure each next step has clear accountability on time-lines and responsibilities.
- Follow up to ensure that next steps are being executed; offer support where needed to get the task concluded.
- Solicit feedback to ensure that the decision continues to make sense. This isn’t second-guessing, it’s simply monitoring outcomes. Don’t be afraid to re-visit a decision if the facts change. Sticking with a bad decision is as bad as making no decision at all.
My Perspective: Sometimes I like to say “I never change my mind.” The statement is intended to cause people to pause and think about what I said.
I then add that if presented with additional facts, I haven’t actually changed my mind — but made a new decision.
Good decision-making is evaluating all available facts and then having the courage to make a decision to take action. In some cases, that decision might be to take no action for a specified period, because you need more information — but it needs to be intentional, not by default.