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on decisions

A perennial topic this one, but the current criticism of the government here in the UK prompted my thoughts because one of the most usual causes of decision paralysis is getting it wrong; if you don’t make a decision you can’t make the wrong one.

I am talking here about critical decisions because there are unimportant things where doing nothing is often the best corse of action, but when there is something important to be done you should do something so not doing it is most certainly wrong.

A favourite quote of mine is from Yogi Berra the American baseball star; “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. Decision making in business or government is more complex than the 50:50 chance of getting it right or wrong, but you are working with three parameters; time, knowledge and resource. Of those you cannot control time and you may not be able to control resource or knowledge before time runs out.

You have to go with the best that you have and accept that you might not get it right. Be decisive and, once it is over and you can see what happened, look at whether or not you could do it better next time. An investigation is essential, but it should never be about blame, always about learning and improving.

Every decision you make will have consequences, but doing something is both an opportunity to learn and it puts experience into the pot for when you have to make the next decision. Fear of failure is an instinctive response, but one that you need to push past if you are to grow. The more you do the more experience you have and experience helps you respond to the consequences of your actions.

Another sporting hero provides an appropriate response here. Eric Carlson was one one the finest rally drivers of the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when rally cars were simply tuned up versions of road cars and safety equipment minimal. He was asked what went through his mind when he approached a blind brow in the forest at night whilst driving at over 100mph. He thought for a moment and said; “Well, the road must go somewhere”. That is experience talking. It gives the confidence to be able to deal with whatever comes. Like Yogi’s advice to take the fork, whatever choice you make your experience will help you deal with whatever comes your way.

There will always be someone who will tell you that you have got it wrong and these people will almost always be those who did not have to make the decision. Pay them little heed for these are the Monday morning quarterbacks who have the benefit of hindsight and had no skin in the game. They might be right, they might be wrong, but as long as you made the call as best as you could with the time, knowledge and resource that you had then at least you did something. Learn and move on.

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