38 - How to know when to take a decision



As a leader, how do you know how much time you have to make decisions? Should you be quick or should you wait? Could you miss out on opportunities if you’re slow? Or will waiting out bring vital information that could decide the course for you?

Knowing when to decide can be tricky. More often, we regress to our default state. If collecting information is what lends us the semblance of a process, we do more of that. If uncertainty is what we dislike most, we tend to decide sooner than later. The first kind of behavior may lead us into analysis paralysis, and the second may beget overconfidence.

Tip 1: Decide as soon as possible or as late as possible but never in between.

By now you would be familiar with the decision matrix I’ve introduced. The point of segregating your decisions into types is to be able to quickly tell which ones matter most. With consequential decisions, you want to avoid missing out on crucial information because there’s a steep price to pay for mistakes. Poor decisions of this type are often accompanied by a sense of ‘Oh I wish I knew this earlier’.

But it often happens that you spend too much time on inconsequential decisions, which leaves you feeling strapped for time for the consequential ones. Imagine your inconsequential decisions as purchases under $100. Some of them have an easy refund policy. But it doesn’t matter because getting these decisions wrong will not break you. You’ll have a second time. So take inconsequential decisions at 10X the speed of the consequential ones.

If you’re the leader of a team, slowing down on everyday decisions may be deflating for your team. The payoff is meager. Delegate all inconsequential decisions to those in the team for whom they matter the most.

Tip 2: Carve out time for your consequential decisions by making all inconsequential decisions quickly, instantly.

I must say here that the definition of consequence or reversibility may not be uniform. With scale, things tend to become unwieldy.

For startups most decisions are quickly reversible with a low cost. Think digital ads: _lots of them, high turnover, continuous refinement. _Larger organizations are not quite as nimble. Just like outdoor ads: fewer, bigger, slower.

But the best organizations evolve with scale. They find entrepreneurs within teams, they run multiple decision-making processes in parallel to optimize for time. Think outdoor ads that combine digital _and _analog.

If you find yourself wondering why you have so little time for an important decision, think of how you are allocating your attention.

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