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July 20, 2017

Are you Overthinking Business Decisions?

Every day, business owners makes countless decisions. Some have long-term, significant impact on the business. Others are small ones. It is important to think through decisions. However, you should be aware overthinking decisions can lead to paralysis, missed opportunities, and slow your business to a crawl. So why don’t people choose to make timely decisions?

Fear of being wrong

Some business owners I know test out potential decisions on anyone and everyone. They go from to person and explain a situation in depth. They talk about their plan and play out the scenarios. The truth is, certain people and resources can provide feedback to help you make good decisions. Others simply don’t know your business well enough. As a business owner, you have to be ready to take risks. Do nothing and the competition speeds ahead of you.

The need to know everything

For many, it’s important to have every piece of information available and analyze it to death. You simply can’t know it all. The best way to navigate is to understand how much information you need to be comfortable with your decision. This is different for each person. For me, when it comes to small decisions, I am good with 60%, for big ones 80%.

Too much collaboration

Large organizations with complex teams are especially susceptible to over-collaborating. It’s great to have diversity of thoughts and ideas, but too much collaboration can delay or sidetrack critical projects. The speed of business demands efficient collaboration. This is actually easier and more convenient with today’s technology. Collaboration tools like Cisco Spark, Skype for Business, and Zoom make it easy to “get in the same room” and move business ahead.

So how do you avoid overthinking decisions? Here is some advice from Stop Wishing. Stop Whining. Start Leading, a book I co-authored with Doreen Bolhuis.

“One approach is to break the decision down into “smaller bites.” Think of it this way, if you want to buy a new house, you don’t just go out and do it. First, you get pre-qualified for a loan so you know how much buying power you have and if you will be able to secure funding. You might research neighborhoods. You would look at the property values, the schools, and location with regard to essential services. Next, you might be looking at the styles of homes, layouts, the number of bedrooms, etc.  You are breaking the home-buying decision down into manageable decisions. This is the same process you use for business decisions.

Timing is important. You must get that right. Once you have done the research, make the best decision you can. It may not be perfect. In fact, it won’t be, because nothing is perfect. If you wait for perfect conditions you will never do anything. You will get stalled.

After you make a big decision, you may experience “buyer’s remorse.”  This is very common especially with large decisions. These are decisions that impact people and the business in a life-changing way. Don’t second guess yourself. It is easy to feel like you should or could have done more.  Unfortunately, the world does not stand still so you must be disciplined and keep moving forward, even if it feels bad emotionally.”

A few final thoughts.

If you are going to lead an organization, decision-making is a critical skill. Start practicing with small ones and work your way up to the big ones. Don’t overthink your decisions or your organization will suffer. If you are looking for a formal process check out the 7 Steps to Effective Decision Making from UMass Dartmouth.


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