Decision Making: Avoiding Procrastination



How often do you find yourself anxious about a decision you are trying to make? Fretting about whether or not you have all the information you need, wringing your hands over the risks associated with the decision. In effect, delaying the decision while awaiting the moment when you’ll have all the information you need. In today’s environment with so much data available at your fingertips the temptation to wait just a bit longer and capture just a bit more data is tempting, but it is often paralyzing.

Throughout my careers as a soldier and business consultant I have called to mind a lesson offered by Colin Powell regarding decision-making. In his collection of rules defining leadership, Powell offers a 2 part observation about the art and science of decision-making; Part I: calls for using “... the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired at the point you make the decision," while Part II: suggests that "...once the information is in the 40% to 70% range, go with your gut.” General Powell’s point is that one ought not take action if s/he has only enough information to reasonable assure a 40% chance of success, but one cannot wait until s/he has enough facts to be 100 percent sure that success will be achieved. By that point in time it is almost always too late. His instinct is right: Today, excessive delay in the name of information gathering often results in analysis paralysis. Simply stated, procrastination in the name of reducing risk can actually increase the risk.

The key is to identify, and stay focused on, those things that are most important to the issues you are facing. Taking the time to sit down with the key stakeholders in your organization and formally discussing the things that really matter can help you understand the information you need to have at your fingertips to reach that 40% to 70% range that General Powell talks about (the science). Once in that range, the skills and insights you’ve built over time will guide your instincts and you can trust your gut (the art) when making that decision in a timely manner.

If you could use a little help determining what matters most in your role as a business leader try the iMatter “What Matters Most Realizer” found here on our website. And if you need a little more support, give us a call. We’ll help you gain clarity around the key issues affecting your business and help you come to grips with some of the difficult decisions you’re facing. Join us ... and build an action plan that moves you forward!