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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Make Up Your Mind… Fast


Decision making process. Do you even think about decision making as a process? I guess not really. But waiting long days for some minor decision which hampers the project sounds familiar, isn’t it? We’ve seen that. We’ve been there.

Here’s the thing: in vast majority of cases when we defer a decision we do it to get more insight, more knowledge about the subject. The problem is we very rarely do anything to actually do what we intend to. Let’s face the truth, most of the time deferred decision is exactly the same as it would be if we made it on the fly. We make it basing on exactly the same premises.

Our decisions aren’t anything close to fine red wine – they don’t become better after some time just for the simple reason it is um… later.

There is cost attached to every delay in decision making process. We hamper our projects, we defer work. Yes, there is also cost attached to wrong calls we make, but then usually we just fool ourselves that we’re going to dig deeper.

So make up your mind and make your call fast. It will be better that way.

in: communication

12 comments… add one

  • Agile Scout December 16, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Is making a quick call always the best?
    I wonder about making “snap-judgments” on things that really need more developed understanding.
    Always a fine line I suppose!

    I’m thinking that quick decision making is really a function of the type of decision it is. Or rather, it is a relative thing.

    Quick decisions are easy when you’re thinking about where to go eat… but what about business decisions to expand your business into an area that you’re not all that knowledgeable about?

    Maybe that’s a bad example, but I wonder, maybe we can categorize areas for quick decision making and areas for some serious thought before acting?

  • Marek Kirejczyk December 16, 2010, 1:16 pm

    “Decisions are temporary….” – Rework

  • ibrahim December 17, 2010, 12:05 am

    I think it depend on subject or issue.

  • Andrew Fuqua December 17, 2010, 6:46 am

    If it’s pretty much the last responsible moment, and it’s a minor issue, just go ahead and decide.

    If it’s not even close to the last responsible moment, then people are likely not waiting, so, don’t decide. But that’s not the scenario Pawel is referring to.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 18, 2010, 5:39 am

    Agile Scout,

    I expected that kind of argument. In ideal world you’d be right. It’s better to make always a good call and when we need deeper understanding we should take time to get some base knowledge before making the decision. But that’s in the ideal world.

    In real world in vast majority of cases we delay decisions planning to learn more about the subject but we don’t do it. We just wait until making the decision becomes totally urgent and we make the call basing on exactly the same basis as we had before.

    Does it make our decision better? No. Does it have a cost attached? Yes, as people are waiting with some tasks until we make up our minds.

    I’d say that we ‘d harm projects less making always a quick call than we do now when we’re waiting to learn more but in vast majority of cases we’re just waiting and not learning.

    In other words – in vast majority of cases we don’t make our big business decisions better when we give ourselves more time. I like the example you bring – decision to expand the business. First, I think no one is asked to make this kind of call with no data whatsoever. Second, if you think about completely new area no matter how deep is your research you will have more of real data after a month of operations than you have after a year of research.

    So yes, this kind of decisions can be made quick as well. It doesn’t have to be here and now, in this very second. But well, I know companies which were sold in matter of a couple of months (from owners’ decision to signing the agreement) and I know those which were being sold for a few years with no success. In both cases it was all about making decisions and making them quick.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 18, 2010, 5:42 am


    Yes, most of the time we are at the last responsible moment, when it comes to decision making. But when I give it a though I believe a quicker decision based on the same knowledge is better even if it isn’t made on the last responsible moment.

    So yes, we should take our time and rethink the whole thing if and only if it isn’t the last responsible moment yet and there is a significant chance we would do anything to get better knowledge about the discussed subject.

  • Jeff Edwards December 22, 2010, 7:54 pm

    A former strategic management professor once instructed us, his students, to make easily reversible decisions quickly, but take a long time to make decisions that cannot be easily reversed.

    I have used this and found it to be sound advice.

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 23, 2010, 3:21 pm

    That’s a good advice indeed.

    But I’m going to come back to my point – you get virtually nothing by just taking long time to make decision. If that is the case, forget it and make it quick.

    You get some value when you actually do something over that time to get more insight or knowledge.

  • Ron Rosenhead December 30, 2010, 11:29 am

    Pawel, this is an important topic. I have seen senior managers and project managers take an age to make a decision- to the detriment of the project.

    I have quoted this in the past (if anyone can be a bit more accurate than me then please do let me know !) The Chief Executive of Avis always suggested that you could not criticise him for not making decisions. Yes he admitted, some of them would be wrong, but he would make them.

    I only wish that was the case with some of the situations I have seen!

    A good post Pawel.

    Ron Rosenhead

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 30, 2010, 11:53 am

    Yet, as you may see in comments, people naturally tend to take their time before making a decision. I think it is a psychological problem – we are just afraid to be wrong so we fool ourselves we’ll make a better decision later.

  • Michał Paluchowski January 12, 2011, 1:24 am

    Reminds me of what the Oracle said in the 1st part of Matrix to Neo: “You have already made your decision; now you need to understand it.” And that’s how it works much of the time – our mind makes the decision immediately, what follows is a process of finding conscious justification for it.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 14, 2011, 5:02 pm

    That’s an interesting observation. Now that you said that I can find a lot of examples of such behavior in a few seconds. This is why they say the first idea is (often) the best one.

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