Today’s hyper-fast business markets require making one decision after the other, often without pausing to fully think through the consequences. And as we all know, it only takes one bad decision to tick off your boss, sink a business, or even ruin your day.
If the stress of making decisions has you bouncing off the walls, try playing a fun game we loved as kids — dodgeball. Only in this case, you’re dodging decisions rather than a round, rubber ball. When the decisions are coming at you fast and furious, here are 10 easy dodges to take the heat off and keep you in the game (even if you are playing not to lose).
1. Show me the data! In today’s information overload world, this is one of the most common decision dodges. Even when overwhelmed with data, leaders can easily say they don’t have enough information to make a decision. So they gather ever more data as a means of delaying decisions while their customers and markets leave them behind.
2. It’s not my fault. This dodge typically occurs when faced with difficult or unpleasant decisions, or when no easy solution presents itself. It’s also a favorite tactic of managers who fear the disapproval or enmity of their direct reports. When a tough decision presents itself, the decision dodger says, “If it weren’t for (insert name), this never would have happened!” He then enlists others in playing a blame game rather than actually solving the problem. The truly skilled dodger keeps a long list of names on hand at all times.
3. Let’s kick it upstairs. In this dodge, the individual or team hopes someone will make a decision – as long as it’s not them. The easiest way to pass the buck is to elevate the decision to a higher level and let someone else handle it.
4. Let’s put our heads together (and do nothing). Have you ever been to a meeting where the discussion goes on and on and nothing ever gets decided? Welcome to decision dodge #4. All the conversation makes people feel like they’re accomplishing something. But at the end of the day, no decision is reached.
5. Waffles, anyone? This dodge typically occurs in situations with two reasonably clear solutions. Like a kid trying to decide between a chocolate or strawberry ice cream cone; the team waffles back and forth between the two alternatives. Unlike the kid, who eventually chooses a flavor in order to get the cone, the team never quite takes that final step to come up with a decision.
6. The “yeahbuts.” In this dodge, people have no trouble making decisions. But as soon as they do, someone chimes in with, “Yeah, but…” and proceeds to offer a litany of reasons why the decision shouldn’t be made, thus delaying any action.
7. Risky business. Most organizations become risk adverse as soon as they begin experiencing success. So when a decision requires stepping outside normal boundaries, procedures, or ways of thinking, people scramble out of the way by saying, “We can’t do that!” Or, “That’s not the way our industry does it.” Or, “What are you thinking? No one does it that way!” This dodge gets played at all levels of the organization.
8. The self-yeahbut. This one plays out exactly like the regular yeahbut, except that the person making the decision comes up with all the reasons why it shouldn’t be made before anyone else can chime in. This dodge runs rampant in organizations that always punish failure.
9. The lifeline. Remember the TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” When contestants didn’t know the answer, they were allowed to call a friend to get help. Organizations frequently put off making decisions or taking action by calling in a consultant. If the decision goes wrong, they can blame the consultant, preserving everyone’s egos and their jobs.
10. It’s not my job. The most time-honored and revered of all decision dodges typically occurs when someone not only doesn’t want to make a decision, but also hopes that someone else doesn’t make it. The trick is to dodge the decision as tactfully as possible without actually coming out and saying, “It’s not my job.” In corporate America, this dodge has been elevated to a high art form.
I hope you enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek look at a serious problem for today’s companies. Remember, good humor almost always has some truth in it. If your organization struggles to make timely decisions, start paying attention to how people dodge them. Then develop ways to support people making decisions rather than avoiding them. Dodgeball may be fun for kids, but it’s no way to run a business!
Call to action: Take this list with you into your next meeting and see how many dodges occur and who’s doing the dodging.
Holly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast, will change your thinking.