Where I live we have a large population of squirrels. These are ferril critters who run, jump, dig in flower beds, and swing in the trees. Sadly, when you drive thru the neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to find dead squirrels on the road. Why?
Well, if you watch one of the spunky guys run in front of your car, you’ll see them start out, stop, turn around, re-evaluate the situation, then maybe do it all over again. Left, right? Up, down? Should I go or should I stay? They may go forward or they might put it in reverse.
They can’t seem to make up their mind about which way to go. The hesitation inevitably leads to their demise.
In most cases, had they run straight across at full speed, they would have made the transition with no problem. Yet by delaying, and second-guessing the choice, they end up making a fatal one.
Leaders can’t be squirrel-minded when making decisions.
The Right Framework
Now, this may sound a bit harsh, yet I see it happen in business in so many ways. Peter Drucker wrote in 1967 about six essential elements or steps that should be a part of making good decisions. Here are those six steps.
First, classify the problem. Is it generic? Is it exceptional and unique? Or is it the first manifestation of a new genus for which a rule has yet to be developed?
Next, define the problem. What are we dealing with?
Then specify the answer to the problem. What are the “boundary conditions”?
Further, decide what is “right,” rather than what is acceptable, in order to meet the boundary conditions.. What will fully satisfy the specifications before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable?
Plus, build into the decision the action to carry it out. What does the action commitment have to be? Who has to know about it?
Finally, test the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events. How is the decision being carried out? Are the assumptions on which it is based appropriate or obsolete?
Using this simple, six-step framework can guide you to making better decisions. While doing these, be mindful of personality derailers that can undermine your own view of things.
Beware of Derailers
Avoid procrastination – action is required. You can analyze and think all you want to, but action is necessary.
Temper a tendency toward Perfectionism – perfection is the enemy of good. Too many new opportunities have been lost while gathering “more data” to land on the ‘best’ decision.
Don’t second guess – use your experience and the wisdom of those around you to craft the decision.
Be bold – good leaders are willing to stand up for what they believe is right. Deciding the next right thing is what people are expecting.
Using Drucker’s framework and avoiding the derailers can set you on the path toward solid, reliable decisions that won’t leave you stuck (figuratively) in the path of an oncoming car, like our squirrel friends.
If you need help with your decision-making process, why not talk to a coach? I’ve been helping business leaders improve their leadership effectiveness for the past 12 years. I’d be happy to meet you and talk through things with you.
PS – If you’re looking for some lighthearted viewing pleasure, check out Mark Rober’s Squirrel Maze video on Youtube. There’s a sequel too.