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Avoiding Decisions

I have written about decision making a couple of times … one titled Decision Making talked about the fact that often indecision is worse than a wrong decision.  Generally in business you can “course correct” if needed, but you need to have some momentum in order to do that, indecision just creates an inertia … and that can be worse than any kind of action.

I also wrote a blog called Decisions and Consequences that talked about some of the poor decisions people make … I picked on Zinedine Zidane, one of the world’s greatest footballers sent off in the World Cup for head butting an opponent; I also talked about some of the decisions that led to the downfall of WorldCom and Enron.

Today I was reading David Allen’s newsletter and his topic was about avoiding decisions, and some tips for getting past those “roadblocks”.  So, with a little shameless plagiarism I am reprinting the article by David Allen, author of the GTD (Getting Things Done) time management methodology.


What decisions are you avoiding?

Every senior executive I’ve ever coached, without exception, has at least one (and usually several) key projects hung up and bottlenecked at him/her, simply because it requires a decision about something and there’s no clarity about what action is needed to move forward on making that decision.

If you can’t decide about something, it means you lack enough information to feel comfortable making some choice. Therefore, the next-action coaching question would be, “So what action do you need to take to begin to get the information you need to make that decision?” Nine times out of ten, there’s a specific action to take, such as “surf web re: xyz” or “e-mail A & B to set meeting to explore options about xyz.”

Every once in a while, though, the information you need has to come from inside—i.e. your intuition. You need to sleep on it. But even then, to really clear your head, you need to make the decision about how long you can “just sleep on it” until you feel like you need to actually make the Big Decision. Two weeks? Two months? Four days? Six hours? Whatever that answer is, you simply need to park a trigger in a calendar or tickler file to yank your chain at that point, ensuring that you re-assess the situation in your own timing. You might even, at that future point, decide that you need or want more time, in which case simply repeat the move-forward trigger. In other words, it’s OK to decide not to decide—as long as you park something appropriate in your “decide not to decide” system. Of course at some point you or the world may change sufficiently to have the whole thing exhaust its relevance and disappear; and you can simply forget the issue. But you will have consistently remained clear in your own agreement with yourself about how you’re engaged with the situation.

So, what decisions are you avoiding? What data would you like to get? Where could you start to get it?

Are you OK with not deciding? For how long? What reminder should you insert in your systems, for when, in order for your psyche to let go and really relax in its thinking?