In every business decision situation, whether organizational, tactical, or strategic, there are two acceptable answers; Yes and No. Indecision is the cornerstone of faulty, short-sighted, C.Y.A. management philosophy. It’s the prized virtue of the mediocre and a tattered safety blanket for the incompetent. While I call the following two examples “reasons” for indecision, they are actually the two most common fallacies that cause leaders to accept indecision as a satisfactory solution.

There’s Not Enough Information
Of all the lines of reasoning that lead managers to indecision, I loathe this one the least. I can at least understand the root of this “logic”. The manager may feel that he isn’t properly informed or that he doesn’t fully understand the implications of the decision at hand. When I’m pitching my company’s services, or dealing with potential partners, I’ll gladly accept the “I don’t have enough information to decide” as a preliminary response. That is, of course, as long as it’s followed by “I will get it and have a decision” or “I will get in touch with the person who does have that information”. If you are the person who is authorized to make a decision, it is your duty (Yes, Joe, I said duty) to know enough to make that decision in an educated fashion. If you don’t know, find out. If you don’t understand, find someone in your organization who does. If you need feedback or data, go out and get it. If a manager comes to a “no-decision” on the basis of a lack of information, it could mean one of two things. The first, and most likely, would be that they are lazy. They just aren’t motivated to put in the extra time to educate themselves for the purpose of the particular decision at hand. The second possibility is that they lack the competence necessary to gain a level of understanding of the situation that would allow them to justify a simple “yes” or “no”. In this case, the individual most likely isn’t the right person to have managing the function in the first place.

Happy Enough with the Status Quo
“Let’s wait and see.” “I don’t want to rock the boat.” “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” “It is what it is.” When it comes to maintaining the (all-too-often dysfunctional) status quo, clichés abound. When many managers are faced with a truly difficult decision, they freeze. Whether it’s a potential acquisition, a change in supplier, a layoff, or some other major decision, it’s understandable for the decision maker to feel a considerable amount of angst. After all, the decision they make will significantly impact the health of the organization, the lives of its stakeholders, and the security of the manager’s own job. But isn’t this the reason they’re in a leadership role to begin with? Like Uncle Ben (Parker not the rice guy) says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Along with the prestige, respect, and pay grade that come with an executive position, also comes the obligation to make difficult decisions. In order to circumvent this obligation, some decision makers will “wait and see” until the opportunity disappears. This is the worst possible approach! It’s like going to the plate every at-bat and blindly hoping for a walk. Any baseball fan will tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than watching your team go down on strikes looking. That’s exactly what indecisive leaders are doing. If a leader puts the time in, does his homework, and makes the most competent decision he can, then he has done his job. If someone disagrees, he can argue logically to support his point. If it turns out he was wrong, he can back his decision’s original validity with research and reasoning.

The current business climate is not hospitable to the lazy, incompetent, or the faint of heart. When the recessional dust settles, and the air clears, it will become apparent that decisiveness in the face of crisis will have been the factor that divided the companies that crumbled from those that capitalized. If you are the decision maker, the coach is giving you the green light. Use discretion, but, when a hanging slider floats right into your wheel-house, please-SWING AWAY!
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Steve Tatum

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