Nimble in decision

We all know that decisions bring us forward, but deciding often feels like too big of a step. Discover how to take decisions with a lighter heart.

The concept of decision entails a sense of finality. Often decisions feel like a Rodin sculpture: once for all perfectly cut. How terrible and scary is that? No wonder that many refrain from taking (major) decisions.

Can’t we remove this sense of fate and rigidity from decisions and turn decision-making into a lighter thing?

Take smaller decisions

Does that decision feel too big? What could be a smaller decision in the same direction that is safe enough to take? Find it and take it. Breaking up a big decision in a series of small decisions often helps to move forward.

“One Fear at a Time”, as John Whitmore writes in Coaching for Performance.

Be it fear or decision, breaking it up in smaller pieces also allows you to adapt the course of action.

Embrace the imperfection of a decision

Make explicit the fact that the decision has been taken based on finite knowledge of a situation and thus corresponds to a local optimum. Finish any decision statement, with : “ … until we know better”.

Shouldn’t we wait then, to take better decisions? Sometimes yes. Gathering more info, giving it more thoughts is always an option. There however always comes the time when Pareto’s Law kicks in, a point beyond which an imperfect decision will show greater ROI than a more perfect one.

Make it a pilot

A great question I make use of to ease my clients in taking virtuous yet still uncertain steps: “Is it safe enough to try?” Often it is. Often, this question eases the “fear of final decision”.

So decide to try, before finally deciding– if you still believe that you will have to decide once for all.

Give it a revision date

Since a decision is made at a certain point in time in a certain context and based on finite knowledge, it seems only fair to review it later down the road, doesn’t it? Fair and definitely smart. Even more in the case of a decision declared as a temporary one, like a pilot.

Define a revision date or install the license and/or duty to revise a decision when the need or new knowledge arises.

This works particularly well for any structural or strategic decision. Imagine how fit your organization would be if every agreement in it was due to be revised! Well, the distributed governance scheme of Holacracy makes it possible for anyone to trigger revision of the governance and Sociocracy 3.0 also advocates regularly reviewing agreements.

To go one step further down the road, I dream of an organizational system where decisions that are not revised get dropped, like an expiry date for anything decided, in order to keep organizational mass as low as possible.

Embrace exceptions to the decision

Just as a local optimum will make sense for most cases around, there will be exceptions. Let them be and shine on the light of the decision. No exception should be hidden, for hiding exceptions calls to rigidify the decision even more.

On the contrary, collecting exceptions to any decision seems to me like a good practice — I yet still have to find a domain where this happens. Every exception enriches the understanding of the decision, sharpens the scope and effects of the decision, and brings material for further revision of it.

That’s all (for now) folks!

This list is not exhaustive, it simply exhausts my current thoughts on the topic. I yet decide here and now to share it with you as such. Definitely safe enough. And the digital medium gives me the license to revise it later down the road ;)

I hope this gives you a few concrete ways to take the next decision with a bit more joy and serenity.

Artwork: Stereophotography of the Grindelwald Glacier.

Originally published in February 2021 on the Liip blog.

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Holacracy Coach & SelfOrg Activator at Liip

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Benoît Pointet

Benoît Pointet

Holacracy Coach & SelfOrg Activator at Liip

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