Is it Better to Be Right Than Decisive?

Projects require goals. You can't execute a strategy that isn't well defined. The hardest part about any project is that when you get a lot of people involved, those goals tend to move around. Some people add a little of this, some people take away a little of that, and the project ends up being…well, not what it could have been. This is the way things are done because we want to get them right. We want "fresh eyes" to catch our errors. We want the people it affects to give us feedback. We want to test and tweak. But do we take it to an extreme? Is it sometimes better to be decisive than to be right?

Malcolm Gladwell may argue in his new book that you can be both, and while that may or may not be true, the point is that we don't feel like we can. We think that waiting for more data or talking it over with others will only help us see the folly in our own decisions. It makes sense. Who hasn't conceived of an ingenuius invention, only to have a friend or family member point out an obvious flaw? Glad you weren't decisive there, right? But getting back to business – it seems that waiting to figure our the right path can lead to a leadership void.

I think sometimes people just want an answer. I think they would rather start down a wrong path and then correct things later than wait until they were sure they were on the right path. I think some employees work with more confidence when the team leader is decisive. Throw in the 80/20 rule… you know the one… you can get 80% of the results you want with 20% of the effort… and that makes a strong case for being decisive and mostly right over thorough and exactly right. Which makes me wonder – should we stop moving those project goals around so much and just make a decision already? Or, is it those hasty decisions that we didn't think through that keep us from being the best in our industry?