Do You Practice Active Decision Making?
Many years ago when I was young and callow, I received an
invitation to attend a 'Decision-Makers' conference. Trouble
was, I couldn't make up my mind whether to go or not. I didn't.
As the French proverb says, "Between two stools, you sit on the
Like a great many people before and after me, I had to learn the
hard way to actively take control of my life. Prevarication is a
poor master, but one that will rule you with a rod of iron if
you don't chose to stop it.
Banish from your mind and your vocabulary the words, 'I'll think
about it.' You won't. Something else will take your eye and
divert your attention. Unless you make a positive decision to do
or not to do, right now, you are very unlikely to revisit.
Nobody ever became a success by hesitating. Success comes to
those who jump in and have a go.
I am not by any means suggesting that you should embrace every
hare-brained scheme or half-baked idea that you come across. Far
from it. What I am saying is that you must develop the skill to
actively decide what to do in any given situation and not leave
the result to chance.
For example, I get about 200 emails a day. Whenever I go to my
inbox I have to make quick choices about all the emails waiting
to get my attention:
Send it straight to trash Save it in a pending file Read it
immediately Forward it to someone else Act on its contents
There may be other choices, but the point is made. If I don't
actively decide between these options I would very quickly get
an inbox so full that I would never get the chance to act on any
Life and business is very much like that. In this twenty-first
century we live in, only those who have mastered the art of
'keeping up' can survive and thrive. There is no room for
Very often the only decision you need to make is whether to act
or not. Once you have made that positive commitment to yourself,
the 'putting into action' part of the equation follows naturally.
Don't over analyze.
Often, the biggest hurdle to cross in reaching a decision one
way or the other is the fear that you haven't considered all the
options. Forget it! Unless you are being forced to decide
something completely outside your field of experience you
already have all the information you need. Your brain has spent
years sucking in data from all over the place. Let that
incredibly complex computer weigh the options for you in the
background. Your subconscious moves much faster than your
conscious thought processes.
There are two kinds of decisions.
The first kind are those that cannot be reversed. You have to
take longer over these, but there is still no value in putting
off the inevitable. In these kinds of decisions, a maybe is the
same as a no. You will have decided by default. If it all goes
wrong then, you will be at fault twice - once for not deciding
at all and once for allowing the wrong outcome to happen.
The other kind of decisions account for the vast majority: those
that can be changed, modified or adapted after they have been
made. There is never any good reason to put off actively making
Go with your gut instinct. 90% of the time it will be right.
Even in the times it isn't, you can reverse it pretty quickly.
Don't be frightened of losing a little face. In business,
someone who has the guts to make a decision, and then, in the
light of new facts, the courage to decide to reverse it, is
someone destined for the top.
Don't think too far in the future.
Some situations try to force you to decide based on the outcome
in the long term. This is rarely sound. Of course, the long-term
objective is valid, but if it bankrupts you or the company in
the short-term, that decision is flawed.
When to avoid making a decision.
After all I have said about the power of positive decision
making, it might seem odd to condone the opposite. However, it
is just as valid to decide not to do something as to decide to
do it. The important thing is to decide.
Some questions are unanswerable and sometimes you simply don't
have enough facts to make an informed decision. In these cases,
your active decision is to wait, gather more facts, or seek
advice. 'Do nothing' is not an option.
I leave the final words to two successful businessmen from
opposite sides of the Atlantic:
'If I had to sum up in one word what makes a good manager, I'd
say decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers to gather
the numbers, but in the end you have to set a timetable and
act.' Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler chief.
'A lot of companies I deal with seem incapable of making a
decision. It doesn't matter if the decision you make is right or
wrong. What matters is that you make it and don't waste your
company's time. If you make the decision, you begin to
distinguish the good from the bad.' Peter Kindersley, UK