3 Questions to a Decision When Things are Uncertain
Ambiguity is always present in a world filled with people, change, and opportunity.
Only the dead are certain.
In praise of imperfect decisions:
Clarity and confidence develop as you go, not before you go.
An imperfect decision is better than none, if you learn as you go. But lack of decision-making leads to stagnation, pessimism, and deeper distress.
Things don’t magically get better on their own.
The worst thing you can do is nothing.
The temptation to stew over tough decisions too long is universal. If you’re stuck and the situation is ambiguous, don’t let your decision simmer any longer. Do something – don’t think something.
Doing instigates thought. But thinking and re-thinking – apart from action – fuels fear.
Soren Kaplan, author of Leapfrogging, told me, “It doesn’t matter what you do next as long as you do something and learn.” He continued…
“Do something you believe is right – that aligns with values and makes sense – and you create optimism. The exciting thing about optimism is it fuels action.”
The 1 to 10 scale:
Use the 1 to 10 scale when situations are ambiguous, and outcomes are uncertain.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, if you continue down the same path, how certain is a positive outcome? (1 = not at all. 10 = complete confidence.)
- With your number in mind, what might you STOP doing *today that will move this situation/opportunity in a positive direction?
- With your number in mind, what might you DO *today that will move this situation/opportunity in a positive direction?
*Any action you do today must be reasonably small and imperfect.
Face ambiguity and uncertainty with thoughtful action. Make a small decision and take the next imperfect step.
Take the next imperfect step – as long as you’re reasonably certain it won’t cause harm.
How might leaders make decisions when situations are ambiguous and outcomes are uncertain?
Dan: For this: “Any action you do today must be reasonably small and imperfect. Face ambiguity and uncertainty with thoughtful action. Make a small decision and take the next imperfect step. Take the next imperfect step – as long as you’re reasonably certain it won’t cause harm.”
If only our politicians and media would use this in everything they do. Small decisions that cause no harm can be built upon to make things better with adjustment occurring along the way. Too often we see “actions” done w/o much thought about impact and as noted because it has always been done that way. Too often we see “actions” taken to make something happen yesterday when the world and people do not work that way. Change is hard to implement and if you move my cheese too far and too fast, I don’t like it. Our challenges of life with family, with work and with the world can be handled patiently and with thoughtful actions if only we stop and think that way. Obvious emergencies like accidents and physical damage events need immediate attention but other events well slow down. An old supervisor (I mentioned this once before) asked me the question once; is this a life or death situation? If not don’t get so excited, slow down, think and craft a solution for the challenge(s) that are presented. Thanks again for bringing up these thought patterns and directions.
Thanks Roger. Your comment feels compassionate and thoughtful. You make me think of the foolishness of waiting for a crisis before making a change. Incremental improvement might prevent so many of the ills we see around us.
Dan this is great! I love especially that you have tied ‘stopping’ something and ‘doing’ something together. Also, you provided a little gauge and litmus tests are always fun and sometimes helpful. I think this one will be helpful to people and I for one will try it. Have a great weekend all
Thanks Cate. I find it useful both personally and as a coaching tool. It’s fun to see people respond to the number they give to the first question.
Love all of your posts but this one really struck a chord with me. I often tell new leaders that paralysis by analysis is never helpful. Examine the data, make the best decision you can with what you know and don’t let the search for the perfect get in the way of making things better.
How might leaders make decisions when situations are ambiguous and outcomes are uncertain? By taking courage and letting others around them know that the situation and outcomes are uncertain.
Hey Gerry, aren’t all outcomes in reality uncertain. In some cases you have a good feel for the outcomes in other cases well results and outcome can go many ways. I’ve found over the years with ambiguous and uncertain outcomes explain as you note to team members, stakeholders and others and then do your best. What’s a good result completion percentage anyway, does anyone really get 100% the best baseball players in the world are considered great if they bat 300 which means they don’t succeed 7 of 10 times. Strive for the best, do your best, be honest thorough and clear and usually one succeeds enough of the time, if not reboot and start over again even after failure.
Wow Roger thank you for the insight. I have never seen it that way before.
Company faces uncertain situation many a times. This is where our real challenge starts. The decision you make will always be questionable. It is important that we have a strong point of view of what steps we take. Thanks Dan for sharing this with us.
You can also read some interesting insights for Leadership on: https://inspiredexperiences.co.uk/blog/