Tough Calls

Demian Entrekin · October 30, 2008 · Short URL:

How do we see through the fog?

 There's just no getting around it. Right now, many of us need to focus our energies on making tough decisions. But it's not just about making tough decisions, it's about making the right decisions under tough conditions. If we can make solid decisions, even if the conditions have grown tougher and tighter, then perhaps they won't be quite so tough. 

Some of us will continue to sermonize about process and visibility, which is all well and good, but we still need to make the tough calls. Do we fund this program and not that one? Do we shut this project down? Do we put that new product development project on hold or simply kill it? 

With these thoughts running around in my addled brain, I was reading an article on Washington politics, and one quote in particular struck me. The article was about the role of the vice president, but the thrust of the quote was really about the flow of information. Walter Mondale points out that "the biggest single problem of our recent administration has been the failure of the President to be exposed to independent analysis not conditioned by what it is thought he wants to hear or often what others want him to hear." 

Putting political positions aside, Mondale's point is central to making decisions under tough conditions. In fact, I'd say that this perspective applies to making decisions under any conditions. The question of "independent analysis" goes to the heart of how organizations function or fail to function. 

What makes "independent analysis" so important? Why do we care? From my perspective, this reflects on the way we think about information. It argues that we need to try to look at our situation from all sides before we make a decision. It means we realize that we all have biases that impact our ability to make good judgments. 

In my experience, strong leaders go out of their way to encourage a broad understanding of the situation. Tough conditions do not destroy their ability to foster "independent analysis." Leaders guard against confirming their own biases. Leaders gather good information from multiple perspectives. Leaders facilitate objective evaluation. 

So now what? 

We can A) sit around and wait for the choices to hit us, or we can B) start preparing to make good decisions. 

Since "A" is not an option, how do we do "B"? Objective analysis of good information is not a bad way to start. And by the way, these kinds of choices can revitalize an organization if handled correctly. 

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