Decision making fails not because people within organisations cannot make decisions. The frustrating reality is that people often choose not to make decisions (or delay making them until the unprovable is proven with data that doesn’t exist).
Fundamentally, it is two emotions that drive this behaviour: apathy and fear
Apathy is often caused by the lack of context within which to make a decision; this may be the absence of a clear vision, goal or destination. ‘If I don’t know the destination, how can I know which route will get me there’? Lack of context yields lack of purpose and reduces personal drive to get things done.
Fear-based emotions are very interesting. Emotions such as doubt, uncertainty and general negative expectation can kill decision making at every level in an organisation.
All too often we get caught up thinking it is logic and rationale that will win the day but the problem is that humans make decisions emotionally and then rationalise the decision. How many times have you considered getting up early to go for a run and then made an emotional decision (subconsciously of course) that you couldn’t be bothered and then rationalised it? You tell yourself ‘I can go this evening; it’s probably not good to run too early in the morning anyway..!’.
If being braver at decision making is as simple as managing two emotions, then why can’t organisations overcome this?
I was running a conference last week and asked the question ‘who here wants to be successful’ and no surprise a lot of hands went up.
I then asked ‘keep your hand up if you are absolutely clear in what success looks like for you’. After a few thoughtful seconds all but two hands went down. I then asked ‘keep your hand up if you have no fear holding you back from achieving that success (I gave examples of fear-based responses such as uncertainty, doubt and negative internal stories that have you stuck)’. And not surprisingly the two remaining hands went down.
And here in lies the problem. We are so concerned with organisations trying to provide clear direction along with an environment that is conducive to fearlessly pursuing these goals that we forget that organisations are in fact comprised of individuals and teams all struggling with the question of apathy and fear in their own lives.
For one day, stop concerning yourself with what your organisation can provide to get rid of apathy and fear. For one day, focus on yourself and see if your sense of apathy and fear can be tackled on a much more personal level.