Lots of speculation, little getting done

People over-analyze. Decisions that should take seconds take minutes, decisions that should take minutes take months, and nothing gets done. Here are the signs of the illness and the ways to heal it.

“We should ask our boss first”

If you have an idea for something new, something out of your ordinary work, you should ask your boss if you can do it, right?

Wrong! Let me tell you a secret: bosses actually prefer people to just do stuff. Consider just making the call and implementing your idea. Tell the boss later what you did. The big difference is that you are willing to carry the risk of you own idea. If you are wrong, it is your fault, not your boss’s.

Of course if you are very wrong, you will get fired. That’s the risk.

“Let’s invite everyone”

When making a decision that involves everyone, you want buy-in from everyone. It is tempting to invite everyone together to talk it through.

There are three problems with this approach.

  1. The opportunity cost is huge.
  2. The decision gets postponed until everyone is present.
  3. It is tedious to make a decision in a big group. People get frustrated and bad decisions get made.

On the other hand, you don’t want to make such decisions in secret. A good compromise is to give an opportunity for everyone to attend, but not make it mandatory. The people who are interested will come, and the rest will be happy for others to make the decision.

“From now on, everyone should do this. All the time.”

Large decisions take more time. With a large group, getting a buy-in is hard. With a long time span, you need mechanisms to maintain the new way. And on top of that, wrong decisions cost a lot.

Don’t make a large decision unless there’s a need. First try it out in a small group, for a short time. If it works, making a larger decision later will be easier.

“We should do something about this.”

Get out of the should-would-and-could world. Nobody likes the big backlog of things to fix.

Ban the word ‘should’. A conversation must never end with a notion that something should be done. Either do it, or don’t. If you notice your workmate using the word, tell him to make a decision. Expect others to do the same for you.

It is okay to have a backlog, but not okay to make it a monument of procrastination. Don’t be afraid to leave stuff out of your backlog. If something is important, it will come up later.

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