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The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’



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Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations

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    Entries in decision making (6)


    Did you decide how you would make the decision? 

    Meetings get a bad rap as being time wasters, energy drainers and demotivators. So when a meeting rocks, it really rocks; it is effective, creative, collaborative, everyone is on song and sh*t gets done.

    For many of us, the success of a meeting or session with the team is based on the outcomes it generates, the decisions made in that time and the end results we're able to walk out of the room with.

    Further to my earlier post on why that meeting didn't make a decision, I wanted to delve further into point #3... which is about deciding how you'll make a decision.

    Yes, deciding how to decide. It is a thing and it's a thing we can often forget to do.

    As a facilitator and creator of the Leader as Facilitator program, I see this all too often: decisions don't get made because we don't quite know HOW we're going to make the decision.

    I see it like a spectrum of decision-making in organisations. There's a culture of 'this is how we make decisions around here'.

    When you join a new business or team, you may not know what this decision-making culture is until you've experienced it, or tried to make decisions in another way and ended up face planting (aaargh!) or face palming (duh!) or leaving the meeting in deep frustration.

    We think or hope the decision-making process is going to be all sweet and nice and collaborative and consensus-like, yet we get surprised or shocked when majority rules and steals all the joy, taking things in a different direction.

    Here's what to do before your meeting or session; decide how you'll decide.

    Dark Patterns of Decision Making

    First to the dark side, to the dark patterns of decision-making: these are DoneUn andNone. They're evil, dark and not pretty but all too common.


    Where a decision has already been made prior to a meeting or session and you're there because "consultation". People know they need to consult but they're adopting the decide/defend approach and aren't going to be moved.


    When a decision is made, all collaborative-like and everyone's good and a little while after the meeting (be it three minutes, two hours or a couple of weeks) the decision is undone, reversed, reneged or 'reviewed'. Urgh. In political circles, I believe it is called 'the backflip'.


    No decision is made. Not a thing. Lots of time spent, lots of talk, lots of 'we've got to do this' and 'I have this great idea' and 'How about we...' but nothing actually reaches the conclusion of a decision. This could also be called the 'HUH' decision where you think maybe possibly potentially a decision was made but a little while later it's not clear what the decision or outcome was. I reckon this is still a 'none' for mine.

    Moving to Brighter Decision-Making

    Let's cross a line here along the spectrum and we see that what happens when we actually DO make a decision; now it's all about HOW that decision is made.


    Here a singular person - perhaps a project or product owner or stakeholder - who is responsible for the decision, makes the decision. You might have to check-in with them, get them to sign off on it or get their verbal or written 'yes'. It happens all the time; it's the voice or go-ahead from a single sole solitary one individual human. (And with AI and robots pervading our world, they're making decisions for us too!)


    A gathering or group, perhaps a sub-committee or other team have been charged with the power to make the decision. Think of an organising committee. They might go off and gather information and then they decide on behalf of others or in consultation with others. Also, this is NOT about a clique or a breakaway or coup who splinter away from the main group. This subgroup has the responsibility and power to decide, as they are.


    When you have to put your hand up or vote on anything, this is what's going on. The organisation, project or leader is trying to see how many are across the line on this decision. It's a majority thing, just like an election. Democratic, you all get a say, you all get to stick a coloured dot on the wall, or tick the box or check an answer in a survey or poll.


    Here's what a lot of organisations are going for (but perhaps don't quite get there), to get a consensus of sorts. It's where you get to have your say, you get to put forward your view. When there are lots of views to consider it can take awhile. If you're working on a project and you're consulting with stakeholders and need to get most of them 'across the line' or to 'buy-in' to the decision, this is likely what you're going for.

    You spend time listening, presenting, helping them understand, you clarify things, and it can go on and on and on. There's nothing wrong with this. It takes time and many people/organisations/leaders are in a panic* about time and simply won't give big decisions the time that's needed to get most people on board.

    *I think while MOST is attempted by a lot of organisations, they give up after a while; it takes so long, is quite challenging and chews up the calendar. They might revert to something earlier on the spectrum.


    Here you get everyone truly onboard. But with complex decisions it's a hard slog. So this is great for straight up simple things that require a decision, but more complex stuff, linger somewhere earlier on the spectrum.


    What's the culture of decision-making where you are?

    What happens most often?

    Which types of decisions get sorted quickly and by which approach?

    What other decisions fall elsewhere on this spectrum?

    Before you next meeting or the next agenda item, decide what you're going for and how you'll decide. Does everyone need to give a thumbs-up or are you going with something less?

    Whatever you do, keep away from the dark patterns of decision-making. They're last-century, old old school and scary.


    3 reasons why that meeting didn't make a decision


    ‘That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back’

    ‘Urgh! There was no point in me even being there’.


    ‘And the purpose of that was *crickets*…’

    If you’ve felt the annoyance of an outcome-less meeting you’ll know it’s lost time, an hour or more of time you ‘can’t get back’.

    In an era where everyone’s got stuff to do, priorities of their own and deadlines to make, a time-wasting meeting is frustrating. It’s a career limiter too - particularly if you’re leading the meeting. You’re likely to get known as ‘that person that never gets decisions made’.

    The Cost of Lost

    Meetings that don’t make a decision are sources of lost time; they’re a waste of the incredible experience and brain-power in the room and there’s the cost of the actual working time of the people in the room. What a tragic ROI?! And don’t even start about the waste of a good meeting room when meeting space can be hard to come by in many workplaces!

    But did we get anything done?

    Yes, sure, there are times when you don’t need to make a decision in a meeting – it’s a meeting that’s about information sharing, or announcing something or it’s an ideas fest – but most meetings do need to get consensus or agreement or some type of outcome.

    It’s what most meetings are judged on: ‘did we get sh*t done?’

    What I hear a lot from people when I’m working with them to develop their Leader as Facilitator skills is that the meetings they run just don’t get the decision part done.

    And now you’ve got to … Schedule. Another. Freakin’. Meeting.

    Yes, you’ll need another meeting time in a week or two to do what should have been done in that meeting that just finished.

    Hostage Situations, Time Wasters & High-Priced Parties

    I think you need to avoid the ‘hostage situation’ as well as the ‘time waster’ types of meetings. This is where people are there against their will or you’ve got the wrong people in the room or didn’t get to an outcome.

    Meetings need to be high on engagement andhigh on outcomes.

    Avoid the ‘high-priced party’ meeting too, unless it really is a celebration and there’s little or no work to be done. (That’s where we’re having a great time but not doing anything!)

    For meetings in today’s workplaces, it’s about engagement + outcomes. You have to have people contributing and participating AND you need to get stuff done, the good stuff, the right stuff… not just any stuff.

    3 Reasons why there's no decision

    There are three reasons why meetings don’t make decisions when they should have.

    [Remember though that meetings are made up of people; people talking and working together. It’s not an automatic robotic machine meeting. We aren’t machines – we are people. We are people and we do things so we need to do something to make adjustments in meetings to make sure the right things get done. And decisions are a big part of that.]

    The three reasons why that meeting didn’t make a decision is ... something wasn’t clear:

    1.  The reason why you were making the decision wasn’t clear.

    2.  The decision to be made wasn’t clear.

    3.  The way you were going to decide wasn’t clear.

    You see, it’s all too fuzzy. If it were clear, it would have happened. The leader, the meeting, the people would have been able to navigate through. But you didn’t. And I reckon it’s one or more of the three reasons. Here they are in a slightly new way of thinking:

    1.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide why you were making the decision.

    2.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide what the decision is

    3.           You (or the group or the leader or facilitator) didn’t decide how you were going to decide


    That’s a Why, What and How. Sounds a little like ‘Start with Why’ doesn’t it?

    So before any type of meeting where a decision is expected, hoped or needing to be made:

    1.  Know WHY you need to make the decision

    2.  Know WHAT the decision is that needs to be made

    3.  Decide HOW you’re going to decide.

    That third one sound funny? Deciding how to decide? Yes, it’s a thing. (More on how to make the decision in my next post).

    Don't leave it to hope or luck

    Too many workplaces simply bring people together and hope they’ll talk enough to finally get to a point where they decide – or give in through exhaustion and frustration!

    Don’t leave decision-making to random events, luck or hope. You may have to do some deciding before the meeting or at least, before the meeting makes that all-important decision.

    Get clear on your why, what and how of decisions to be made and you’ll get known as ‘the person who helps us get sh*t done’!


    Making sense of WTF is going on

    It can be entertaining to see how we predict the future. From characters like The Robot on Lost in Space, to any Star Trek episode, we are always imagining into the future and picturing what our world will be like.

    Reading Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock or the classic from George Orwell 1984, watching science fiction and thinking of future technology… we’re predicting what it might be like up there, in the future.

    Equally entertaining is when we then look back and see where we’ve come from; there may have been plug and cord switchboards for telephones or we hear the old dial up noises that connected us to the earliest versions of the Internet. Or when we see an older film – from the 1940s or 50s or from the 1990s or early 2000s - and see the technology we used to use: big boxy mobile phones with external antennas and battery packs the size of suitcases?

    What were we thinking!? 

    Today we continue to use all that we know and all that we can get our hands and minds on to predict and plan for the future.

    How do we make sense of the now to plan for the future?

    We are humans and we use sense making.

    We make our best guess.

    Our discussions, thinking and mapping help us predict and scope, ponder and plan.

    And then we look back on it … and sense is made… and often it’s not quite as we thought is might be. We might smile or shake our heads and laugh at what we were thinking then.

    But it’s what we knew at the time. We made sense of what we knew at the time.

    We proposed scenarios, situations, possibilities and options. We were creative and thought provoking and making our best guess of what the future would be like or what we could do based on what know now.

    In the world of work today, for the future of work, we have to keep doing our best to make sense.

     The Institute for the Future reckons Sensemaking is the #1 skill and capability for the future, for 2020 and beyond.

    We can make sense alone... or together. So when you're alone, how do you deliberately make sense of something?

    When you're at a conference or meeting or event and so much data and information is pummelling you, how do you deliberately sensemake?

    Then when you're in a team, group or business unit and you're working together on things, how do you all make sense of what's going on... and do it - kind of deliberately?

    How do you make sense?

    I think you need a tool... no, a handbook of tools. There isn't just one way to make sense. There are many ways.

    "Making Sense: A Handbook for the Future of Work" is just that... a handbook.

    This is not a book about the future of work; it’s a book that will help you handlethe future of work… whatever it is, whatever happens, however it impacts you.

    Making Sense is full of approaches, questions, techniques, tools and models to help you as you respond to what the future has in store - for you, your team, your organisation, industry, country… your world.

    It is a tool and a handbook that will help you put your sense making to work. You see, this sense making topic has got some balls, and that's where it can get tricky. It's a capability needed in workplaces and communities today and the irony is that it can be difficult to make sense of making sense. 

    There’s such a depth of information on the topic of sensemaking; journals, well-researched articles and peer reviewed detailed pieces that go deep, deep, deep on sensemaking. But I don’t think they help us make sense of making sense. Time is of the essence. How do we make sense swiftly? How do we get smart… quick?

    Making Sense is my thinking and experience on how I've worked with people, to help them work together to think, map and act… to make sense of whatever is going on in their industry, their organisation, their team - or for themselves.

    It’s a book that is about making sense. And no matter what the future holds, no matter what technology comes or what changes are made to the world we live in, we will always be striving to make sense of what’s going on.

    We are humans and we use sense making.


    Will we, won't we, maybe... umm: the killer of business momentum

    Indecision is such a business and momentum killer

    Think of a meeting or conversation; there are ideas, possibilities, but then it all screeches to a halt because there isn’t a decision. Or wait, here’s the decision: lets set another meeting date and talk about it all again next time. Urgh! 
    I think we are losing the drive to decide. 

    Yet decisions are such a vital component of leadership. They help you choose a course of action. They set a direction. They help express your leadership. They give people some certainty in this crazy uncertain world. 

    How about this: earlier this week I heard of more than 30 team members being on the receiving end and consequences of the indecision of a senior manager in a large organisation …  the leader couldn’t decide what to do with the most important part of their strategy day, which is just a few days away. 

    What? It’s a big and important strategy day. And it’s that big and important and you can’t decide!?  

    You still have no certainty on what you want to achieve, how you will do that, and you’re still oscillating and circulating and debating and ruminating over what could possibly be done.

    And it’s a strategy day. And it’s important. And it’s involving other people. And it’s about the future of the team and what you work on. 

    Whatever the details and the whys and wherefores and ‘yeah but maybe theys’ that you may be scripting in your mind about this situation, the point here is that a decision wasn’t made. Over a period of time. No decision. 

    There’s a lack of leadership right there. That’s what it looks like.

    It's Indecision. It's Oscillation. And Hesitation. 

    Contemporary leaders must give some their teams certainty over the stuff they CAN give certainty on. And making decisions is one of them. Decisions help give people certainty. 

    Leadership is about making heaps of decisions. Every day. Deciding which things will you tell, which you’ll share, ask or do; which things will you instigate, delegate, escalate, mitigate.    Yet it’s that flipping from one view to another, unable to make a call or to put a marker in the sand… it's that 'dicking around’ I call it, the not deciding that is a momentum and engagement killer. 

    Do we fear that: 

    • it will be the wrong decision
    • it could really stuff things up
    • maybe it’s not totally right
    • is it the best we can possibly do, maybe we can do better later with a bit more time
    • stuffing this up will hurt my career
    • maybe this will cause conflict … and a bunch of other hesitation hang ups.  

    Along with authenticity, clear communication and setting visions, leaders dear leaders, you need to make a FREAKING DECISION. And make it fast. Make one now. 

    Failing Fast

    If it doesn’t work, that is also known as ‘failing fast’. And you will soon know if it’s not right. Failure and failing fast is very ‘now’; it’s contemporary, hip and the done thing in agile teams and organisations. But you’ve got to decide so you can act and then see what happens. If you don’t decide, then you’re not leading.  
    If you’re not making a decision you’re not stepping into action, you’re not running an experiment and you’re not leading. You’re lying… in waiting.

    Dangerously Safe

    It’s like you are balancing on a high wire, not moving towards the end goal and neither are you reversing or backing up to go along some other high wire. You don’t even have anything to help you balance on that wire. You’re a balance-less high wire walker. And that’s dangerous.  
    You’re putting yourself in a situation where a little gust of wind, a little rattle on the high wire is something that could topple you over. That wouldn’t be a good ending.   

    An End to Choice

    "To decide". It means to end and terminate the choices you have. It means to ‘cut off’.

    Don’t be the person or role that someone else decides to cut off because you’re not making decisions in your team or organisation. 

    Decisions are leadership.Do them. Make them. Lead. 


    Why people won't buy in to that 'thing'

    In New York last week at the International Forum of Visual Practitioner's conference and it was a week of great meetings, conversations and learning. 
    A stand-out for me was a session by Lynn Carruthers and Sophia Lang - about creating and using visual templates to help people work together, collaborate, create and innovate. 
    On the wall in their session they referenced collaboration and group work wizard and author Sam Kaner. Session presenter Lynn had previously heard Sam say something along the lines of the following :
    She paused, double-checked and got the quote down on paper from Sam when she heard it.

    This for me is a HUGE reason why many groups and teams struggle with building buy-in and getting people to align to complex changes ... as well as the simplest decisions. 
    Check on what you're trying to get people to buy-in to.
    Can they see it?
    Is it visible?
    Or are you all-talk?
    You can check out Sam Kaner's book on participatory decision making here