Not making a decision is a decision


By Chris Gandy

During a coaching session with CEO, he related that he had agonised for the past 7 months about whether to introduce a new case management system – he just couldn’t make a decision.

As decisiveness is such a critical element of our Bold Leadership touchstone, I simply couldn’t let this comment “go through to the keeper”. So I enquired about the current case management system and why a replacement had even been considered.

He reeled off a number of inadequacies with the system, many of which where clearly impacting on service delivery.

While he believed he couldn’t make a decision, I pointed out that  he had already made a major one. When the problems with the current system were identified he had a clear choice – fix them or ignore them. To this point he had chosen to ignore them. And, each choice has consequences.

The other matter we discussed was that every decision has a consequence and started to explore the outcomes of each choice.

We commenced with the decision to act and is was not unexpected to find that fear was a major underlying player here. The CEO was concerned about such things as:

  • Precious $’s may be wasted if we stuff-up,
  • He may be disciplined by the board if we get it wrong
  • Staff might even call him a dill!

We then discussed the consequences of the decision not to act. There are also costs of inaction. And these were fairly stark:

  • The organisation’s clients were receiving an inferior service
  • Funding for the program was potentially being  placed at risk
  • Staff morale was being affected and employee turnover was on the rise.

After laying all the cards on the table, within two weeks the CEO gained approval from the Board to source a new system. It was implemented and a three year Government funding contract was renewed.

Of course our CEO here is not Robinson Crusoe in falling to understand that every management decision has a consequence. For example, how often do we properly consider that:

  • By ignoring a troublesome staff member we could be negatively impacting morale and adding to employee stress.
  • By putting off staff training initiatives we are affecting the organisations capacity to deliver a truly great service.
  • By choosing not to have that difficult discussion with Board about issues that are affecting our performance  are hindering our own ability to contribute.

How can we break out of this procrastination inertia?

The answer is quite simple really though it requires a little fortitude.

1. Appreciate that with any management issues you have TWO choices. And each choice has consequences.

2. Develop a fear for both choices. We are great at identifying what may go wrong if our action goes belly up. We lose sleep worrying about it. Lose a bit of sleep worrying about inaction and you will have made a decision within a week!

3. Evaluate the true risks of both choices and act. If the decision is to not go ahead, fine. But tell all the effected stakeholders why you have made that choice and move on.

4. Monitor and measure the results of your choice

5. Recognise that decisions are rarely etched in stone.  If you need to go back a change your decision – do so. If a wrong call was made the first time round, don’t let hubris and pride stop you from admitting to an error and making the right call. Learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again and get on with living. If you are concerned about what others think, they are far more likely to focus on, and applaud, the new correct course of action than dwell on the original error.

Photo Credit: 123rf

About the author: Chris Gandy is a Director of Cause and Effective ( a company dedicated to assisting cause-based organisations to achieve greater social impact. Fo more information check out “What We Do” and “How We Do It”. 

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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