Leaders want to be successful. We want to make good decisions. Yet in today’s VUCA environment (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) — where new information is coming to light virtually every day, variables are changing from moment for moment and four different “experts” are giving you five different recommendations — how can a leader gather all the information you need to make the perfect decision? You can’t.
I’m not saying you should shoot from the hip either, however you box yourself in as a leader when your expectation is to have “all” the information before making a decision.
“All” is a moving target. If that is your bar for making a decision, you unconsciously give yourself permission to “sit and spin” . . . to expend lots of energy going in circles rather than moving forward . . . to hold out for that moment of absolute certainty that is never going to come.
What’s the solution? Enough.
You need enough information to make a decision, and then have the confidence to move forward. Will you sometimes make the wrong decision? Yep. But if you are already moving it is much easier to course correct, and if you start moving sooner (as opposed to waiting until you’re 100% certain) you have the time and energy to make adjustments and still get to the finish line sooner. You are actively striving toward the perfect solution, rather than simply waiting for it to arrive.
So how do you know when you have enough information? I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . having enough information to start is not the same as having enough information to devise an entire 57-page plan. Leaders who are prone to “sit and spin” usually expect to have the entire (perfect) plan worked out before they start. “Enough leaders” know where they want to go, and then begin the journey when they have enough information to start. They don’t wait until they have enough information to finish — because much of that information can’t be seen at the outset, it is found along the way!
Is there a risk in making a decision without all the information? Yes. But ask yourself . . . is that risk any greater than making no decision, and as a result having no forward movement? Especially when what you are risking is a single step rather than betting the farm on an entire plan. Do you have the information to take that one step?