Great leaders and teams avoid the danger of seeking perfection at the expense of decisiveness.
We don’t like it, complain about it, and know it’s a time-waster, but we still have perfection paralysis in our organizations and on our teams. Many teams struggle with indecision and for me, this falls into overcoming the team dysfunction called fear of conflict.
Conflict is about the productive exchange of diverse ideas and opinions in a focused, efficient, and unfiltered way. Without conflict, we don’t make the best decisions quickly and often we must revisit our decisions. For some over and over again. The ultimate goal of conflict is to arrive at the truth or a decision. Be it making a policy, choosing a vendor, or deciding on a technology – whatever it is that the team is deciding – passionate ideological debate/conflict is necessary to make good decisions.
I’m not sure which is worse for a team – consensus or certainty - but both should be avoided like the plague. Consensus on team decisions is rare and when we wait for it, the market can change, we don’t need it anymore, and we risk being indecisive. On the other hand, certainty does not exist in business or in life yet so often we are afraid to make the wrong decision, so we wait for more information or data so we can be certain. And when we wait too long, again we are indecisive and often the need or opportunity passes.
Consensus and being branded indecisive aside, let’s focus on our obsession with certainty. General Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” In short, he was saying, what we all know deep down inside - a plan is better than no plan at all.
I’ve seen many teams fail to bring the passionate ideological conflict to closure and commitment because they are waiting for certainty. Teams must be able to unite behind a decision even though there is no certainty that the decision is correct. Team leaders have the biggest fear of being wrong and when they wait for certainty it looks, smells and walks like indecision.
Great leaders and teams know that a decision is better than no decision and that it is better to make a choice, even one we’re not sure of, and act with boldness. If new information or data comes to light latter - course-correct quickly and move on. It is always better to be wrong and change direction than it is to waffle or wait for 100% certainty. Be more afraid of being indecisive than being certain.
More important than getting the right answer, it’s often more important to simply have an answer. One that is directionally correct and around which all team members can commit.
Of course, that’s not to say that leaders should just come up with any answer to important issues without regard to whether they are relatively correct. That would be counterproductive. However, waiting for clear confirmation that a decision is certain is a recipe for mediocrity and almost a guarantee of failure.
Organizations and teams learn by making decisions, even bad ones. By being decisive, leaders allow themselves to get clear, immediate data from their actions. As a result, they are often able to change course and defeat indecisive competitors who, while happy they did not make a mistake, are too mired in analysis paralysis to come up with a plan.
Great leaders and teams avoid the danger of seeking perfection at the expense of decisiveness. A decision is better than no decision at all.
The greatest business decision failure of all time was Coke Classic vs. New Coke. The course corrected quickly, got a lot of free advertising, and the rest is history.
Steve Fairfield www.teamworkprincipals.com