Remember when you were a kid, learning to drive, and they taught you that a stop sign requires a full stop? And a full stop means that you can actually feel the car settle back when it does? I’ve come to realize that, for me at least, decision making reminds me of the need for the full stop.
I think about a problem, review the options, and then I need to pause. I let it percolate. I digest it. I give it a pause that releases the pressure. I don’t stay focused on it straight through from problem to decision.
How long the digesting or percolating takes depends on the problem. That pause can take an hour, a day, or several days. It doesn’t always work but it often does. I relax, like the car coming to a full stop, and let it go. Most of the time the decision will come to me much better after the pause.
Have you heard this? It’s not mine, I think it’s sort of common knowledge:
If the decisions were made by consensus, every wall would be painted beige.
As my business grew up from entrepreneurial to stable, we had to redo our decision process. Early on, we sat around, a few of us, discussed and decided. That was when there were 10 or 12 of us. I guess I made a lot of the final decisions, because it was my work, my product, and my company. But it often felt like consensus. And it seemed to work.
But it didn’t work forever. After a while — a few years, really, but it seemed like a blink of the eye — we were 30-40 people. And we had programmers and bookkeepers not just chiming in on decisions about, say, packaging and web designs … but feeling alienated if their opinions weren’t given enough weight. And here’s what I learned:
Good business decisions aren’t done by votes
Ultimately, we had to learn that we’d evolved into a structure based on functional expertise, and we wanted our financial people minding cash flow and taxes, our development people writing code, and our marketing people deciding on packaging, web strategies, and social media. And that hurt some feelings. But it improved the business.