Avoiding Decision

Posted on May 15 2009

Why Are People Avoiding Decision?

Avoiding Decision is probably the biggest decision pitfall ever! Sometimes this method will make the need for it to happen at all will go away. This is rare, or it’s purely because of lost opportuntity! For some, the few times that avoiding decision techniques has worked in their favor has permanently scarred their ability to make one on time in the future.

How Does Avoiding Decision Happen?

Inaccurately defining the problem: This will always lead to the wrong decision. If you don’t understand the parameters, any decision will be wrong.

Try: take extra time to define the problem. Double-check to ensure you have this one right - the whole decision depends on it!

Failing to understand the problem: Usually, failure to understand is caused by bias, subjectivity, poor or irrational analysis, lateness or procrastination, lack of sensitivity, and lack of focus. It may be caused by lack of process or structure.

Try: Ensure you have adequately defined the problem. Break it down if necessary. If you aim to understand, you are most likely to succeed.

Confusion: If the problem is still confusing after problem definition, you may have to break down the problem to simplify it. You are avoiding decision because you don’t feel comfortable to do anything about it.

Try: Try first to check the quality of problem definition. Later check the models , processses and Decision Making Tools you are using. If these cannot simplify the decision to be made, use an Incremental Decision Making Approachto resolve it if it is too complex, even after problem definition.

Assuming it’s a Common Sense-based decision: Eventually you will have to decide something that can’t be decided based on common sense. There are more complicated decisions to be made, and you are avoiding decision because they can’t be done without processes, methods and tools.

Try: Check first to see if you can make the decision this way instead of avoiding decision - do a test scenario - evaluate the risks, and then determine if this decision warrants more structure.

Praying for a miracle: Most of the time, our prayers are for miracles. The worse things get, the harder people pray, the worse things get yet even more.

Try: Pray instead to get help in leading you to a decision. While you are at it, think about who could help you and ask for some advice.

Pass the buck: If you don’t want to decide, and are avoiding decisions especially because you know the results are going to be unpalatable to others, you might try to pass off the responsibility of making the decision to someone else. This scapegoat approach is truly the mark of a coward. Many managers employ groups for purely this reason, especially when minor decisions about employees need to be made. Blaming is easier than taking responsibility. Remember that blame will also reflect upon you.

Try: Putting yourself in the shoes of all parties - the potential scape goat and those to be impacted by the decision. Run through a few scenarios, and then quickly list alternatives . Play devil’s advocate for both parties, and see if something obvious doesn’t come out and hit you in the face. If not, employ an expert to decide - not a poor unsuspecting co-worker or friend.

False Hope: Many people have false hope that the decision won’t have to be made, or someone else will do it, so they are avoiding decision. This stems out of fear, which is essentally the same. This is avoidance , and taking some steps to resolve the problem is a lot more productive.

Try: Think about this instead: “What have others done in my situation?” Research a little and find out what potential solutions are out there. Research never hurts - ask a few questions, surf a little. You are now further ahead and can use one of our other “try this” steps to take you on from this point.

Put it at the back of your mind: Many use the excuse - “I’ve got to think about it”. They wait to see if something will come up that will change things, or magically, the decision won’t have to be made and the problem will be solved.

To be honest, without putting some effort towards the decision, things to get out of control when you are avoiding decision and you will feel overwhelmed because there were other decisions that hinged on this one and you’ll feel you are in a mess.

Try: take one step at a time. Write the decision down. List all of the data you need to collect, or people you need to talk to. If you still can’t move it beyond here, have a personal brainstorm session of possible solutions. step-by-step you can get this one moving in the right direction! If you don’t know where to start, talk to an expert, a friend.

Jigging the Numbers: If you play with the numbers in analyzing your data, just so that the decision can be made, you’ve essentially made the decision and now are just wasting your time. You may just need more information on the other options. If you don’t have the time, or are too lazy to do it yourself, delegate!

Try: If this decision begs numerical analysis, so be it, but get an unbiased party to do it for you. If it doesn’t, try another decision tips - something as simple as the coin toss, or possibly the PMI Tool .

Clinging to the known: If you repeat the same decision because you are afraid of change, or that you will become obsolete in your job, you are focused on holding on to your career investment.

Try: Look at what new opportunities the new decision might bring to you to open doors in your career. No one ever got promoted for keeping things the same. If you want recognition and promotion, you have to do something amazing, and taking your group through change is remarkable. If repeating the same decision is safe, and the wise thing to do, just go ahead and do it! Get implementing and wasting your time.

Being over-confident: This makes you optimistic and then you might make high risk decisions. Instead of thinking for yourself, you expect that miracles will happen and it will all work out for itself, without deciding anything. Some element of risk management is taken with every decision. If we simply believe that it will all work itself out, at least 90% of the time we are wrong.

Try: List what are the benefits and risks of assuming or being confident. Look at the worst three things on the list and then see if there is something you can do that can be done to avoid them from happening so that you can go back to being confident.

Being too careful: If you hesitate long enough, and delay decision making for too long, your opportunity is sure to pass you by. Being too careful is another sign of fearing the decision. Indecision is a habit - it will transfer to those who depend on you and your image will be damaged.

Try: Setting a time limit, and make the best decision you can at the time. If this makes you too uncomfortable, try the benefit/risk exercise listed previously.

Being too impulsive: If you fail to study the situation before deciding, you can make some big mistakes. Some people jump and decide far too quickly.

Try: Give each situation due diligence - allot time for study and contemplation appropriate for the risks and size of the decision.

Decide then support: This is a dangerous rope to be walking. We preach about eliminating bias in our methods, and this is what we are trying to protect people from. Looking for data to confirm what you want to happen anyways will support preselection of an option, and discount any oppositions.

Try: If you can’t take an unbiased look at the decision, create a Group Decision Making to decide, or look for a decision expert to help. Even if you can get someone else to filter the data, they will gather the amount that is appropriate and decision against a favorable option will be harder to make and protect your reputation in the long run.

Limit the Alternatives : This strategy is very popular. If the cards are stacked to make one alternative clearly selected, risk is eliminated.

Try: others are clearly needed in this decision - if you are stacking the deck, you can’t be trusted and need to find a group or an expert. If the problem has very little impact, you will have to trust yourself, but try some of the quick tools to check your emotions and feelings about the solution.

Argue the petty points: If you are misrepresenting some of the facts, because you want a particular outcome, you have already decided and are avoiding decision. Go ahead and announce your decision and be done with it - arguing petty points make you look foolish. If you don’t want to announce your decision, you might be embarassed and know deep down this needs another shot.

Try: gather all of the data and utilize someone else to analyze it. If you have to, employ a group method. You obviously need more perspective, if you know you are arguing the petty points in favor of a poor selection. If you don’t realize you are doing this, if you can, do a checkpoint - ask for other’s opinions on your decision.

Have second thoughts: Second thoughts interfere with many great decisions. We all have them - and sometimes we start imagining difficulties, obstacles and other dangerous scenarios. You are self-abusing yourself if you take this to a point where the decision isn’t getting made.

Try: Take a look at your data again. Once. Why did you make this decision in the first place? You must have reviewed all of these potential danger spots and now are just in fear of actually commiting and in avoiding decision. See fear of commitment, and move on.

If you need to, double-check with a friend or co-worker on your decision - they will likely relieve your fears so that you can move on. Caution: if you use another party to confirm, be sure they know more than just your worry points - they need the rest of the data that supported your decision in the first place.

Doomed to fail before you start: If you have had some bad luck or poor judgment in the past, you might believe that no matter what choice you make, it will be poor. Avoiding the decision is delaying the inevitable. Good decision makers go through a tried and proven process so that this cannot happen.

Try: Check your Decision Making Process, follow it diligently. Perhaps take a little more time, and do more double-checks. You will like the results!

Group Decision: To make a decision, set up a committee that will pass the buck or shift the decision away from yourself. If you are doing this, and something goes wrong, nobody is responsible. Eventually, you will be blamed, as you called the committee and was essentially the leader in the first place.

Try: If you strike a committee, ensure it consists of the best members and experts possible. Take ownership of their decision - eventually you will have to anyways.

Inaccurate Information: Often, information gathered is not valid. This is usually caused by Decision Bias, or problem definition faults. It can also occur when decisions are made first and information sought to support the solution, or much of the information gathered is irrelevant to the decision-making.

Try: Review your decision definition again, and ensure it was correct. Apply all relevant information to the corrected definition, and inventory what else needs to be collected. Essentially you are retracing your steps to come up with the right decision.

False alternative: This is deadly. The decision definition authors have attempted to paint the decision-maker into a corner from which there is no escape except to accept the alternative. “If you are believe in this, you must to that.

Try: If you can’t support the definition, you need to back away from making the decision. If you have no alternatives but to accept it, you need to either try to include others so that your power can be increased, or you need to gather sufficient data and make it public so that you can save face, or “CYA”.

Hidden Agendas: Often, especially in politics, the decision maker has obligations to repay and sometimes act against their own integrity to meet critical obligations.

Try: walk away from this decision instead of avoiding decision - it is a time-bomb. Somehow get others involved so that you cannot be responsible. If possible, delay the decision until you find some way to save your integrity.  That is, unless you have a habit of procrastinating.

Jump on the bandwagon: Following the group decision is perhaps just another way to delay the decision. If you don’t honestly believe in what you are doing you will be back to decision time yet again.

Try: Do some scenario tests and use Decision Making Tools to test your decisions. If you can live with them, go ahead, but chances are you are doing to have to decide for yourself. If you are faced with employment or legal implications, you may have to follow along or change your path.

Avoid responsibility: Doing nothing is one way to both avoid the decision, but also avoids responsibility. Some people do this in belief that the right solution will eventually become obvious.

Try: Is deciding not to decide an option? If so, make it officially so, by saying we will select status quo. If it is not, avoiding decision will delay the pain. Do something, even define the problem or gather data to step yourself closer to decision. Delegation may be another option.

Shift the blame: Take credit if the decision is popular, but blame someone else if it is a failure. You will become anxious that you will be exposed, and are therefore just delaying the inevitable: the decision will have to be corrected.

Try: Ensure the decision was properly framed, adequate and accurate data was collected and a good process was used. If you are confident with your decision based on the data, you will avoid this time waster. “The truth will set you free”. If the decision appears that it could be unpopular, take extra time to ensure your work is accurate.

We hope that reviewing these ways in which avoiding decisions can be avoided, and our “Try this instead” tips were helpful. If you have more Decision Making Tips that have been successful for you, we encourage you to contact us to pass them on. We also encourage you to take a look at our processes and try our DECIDE GUIDES, as you will learn about solid methods to make decisions yourselves that you will be satisfied with.

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