Who Needs Final Decisions Anyway?

Raven Young recently listed 11 personal qualities in her blog post What Makes a Project Leader Successful? The list is taken from an interesting article at Slow Leadership entitled What Every Manager Ought to Know About Communication.

The quality that especially caught my eye was:

“They [good leaders] never make a final decision until they must. Until then, they keep their minds, ears, and eyes open and alert to possible changes that would require a different choice.”

“What a load of rubbish!” I thought. Everyone knows good project leaders need to be decisive. As I wrote in A Bad Strategy is Better Than None indecision wastes time and money, reduces project momentum and de-motivates your team.

Then I read the words again and realised that I had misinterpreted them. The crucial point being made is not that you should put off all decisions but that you should leave final decisions to the very last moment. In other words, make decisions quickly and keep your project going but, as more information comes to light, feel free to change your mind.

Having now thought about it I would be inclined to suggest that very few decisions indeed should ever be final. In my experience those who stick to past decisions even when they turn out to be wrong rarely reap any rewards for doing so.

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2 comments so far

  1. Jay Sorenson on

    Perhaps we can borrow a concept from statistics,
    that of A Priori estimates.

    Make the decision based on the information available at that point in time.

    If furter information becomes available at some
    future point in time, modify (or not) your original decision.

    Some where in the dim past I remember reading
    about decision thru in-decision. In other words
    do nothing. This may be somewhat un-systematic,
    somewhat like look before you leap vis-a-vis
    he who hesitates is lost.

  2. daviddaly on

    Hi Jay,

    Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so. I like the A Priori concept and agree you need to use what information you have and not be afraid to change your mind if the available information changes.

    Decision through indecision eh? It is absolutely true that you can actively decide to do nothing. And this decision can sometimes be the correct course. When you are trying to keep a team motivated and working hard to deliver a project I would venture to say that actively deciding to do nothing is probably not the best way to move things forwards!


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