Watts Humphrey, originator the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model and a significant contributor to the concept that software development is an engineering discipline, once remarked to me that one can learn a lot more from doing than by studying.
Of the many lessons Watts' provided to me, this one found itself into my essence as an executive. Don't get me wrong. I'm not walking around all day randomly making critical decisions without thoughtful input and deliberation. But I do not wait forever, hoping that if I just have enough more information or the time is right, then I'll decide.
Try these approaches with your team:
- Let them know that you don't have all the information you would like to make the decision. This is important because someone on your team actually may have more information and prevent you from doing something bad. It also helps perpare them for the fact that down the road, the decision may need to be revisited.
- Be very clear with your team that you have very intention in changing course if the consequences of the decision require it. (HINT: The consequences will). I often set a specific time for when we will revisit the decision. This has the effect of preventing the team from getting too wrapped up with making the decision "stick" and allows the team to focus on the business problem we are trying to address.
- Demonstrate concrete changes you make in response to lessons you learn once the decision is being put into place. I believe this is an action that gains tremendous credibility. It shows that you are willing to take a chance and make adjustments when presented with new information.
- Allow people on your team to fail. Ok, maytbe not fail miserably, but at least them understand that it is OK to take a course of action that doesn't turn out as hoped. The be there for them to help them make the adjustments needed to get back on track.
Perhaps most importantly, these steps begin to build your next generation of leaders. They provide a model of how to navigate uncertain times. Nobody expects a pilot to take off and blindly stay on the planned course, regardless of what reality presents.
We shouldn't act like our decisions are any more accurate and stable than this.