Clarity of Outcomes: Clear the Air Before You Commit

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision on what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out and meet it.” — Thucydides, ancient Greek historian.

Clarity of Outcomes: Clear the Air Before You Commit by Laura Stack #productivity

Clear, practical decision-making represents one of the hallmarks of the competent professional…though sadly, the commodity seems in shorter supply than it should be. People often make decisions reflexively, without sufficient data to understand the potential repercussions. Oh, sometimes they hit the bull’s-eye through sheer luck. But since when was business a game of chance?

You have to be able to see your target to hit it consistently, which makes clarity of outcomes your #1 goal in any decision-making process. Never blindly assume you understand what will happen if you do this as opposed to that. Give it some deep thought, leveraging not just your experience and intimate knowledge of your marketplace, but also any other research and information that might impact the outcome.

Obviously you can’t know in advance everything that might divert a decision. An unexpected gust of technological innovation might throw your aim off, or some uncontrollable event could shift the target after you’ve pulled the decision trigger. But by now you’ve surely realized motion beats meditation, as long as you have sufficient facts and resources on hand. Here are a few ways to go about it.

1. Research the variables. If you have experience dealing with a particular issue and know for sure the boundary conditions haven’t changed, then you can proceed with your decision-making confidently. However, if you’ve never dealt with anything like the issue at hand, or if conditions have changed, then invest some time in basic research. If you lack the time to do it yourself, assign it to one of your direct reports.

2. Never make unwarranted assumptions. If a friend asks you how long it will take to climb a mountain, don’t assume he means Pike Peak. He might mean Denali. Know for sure what he wants before proceeding.

3. Set a deadline for action. Once you’ve settled the previous factors, set a drop-dead date for your decision. Announce it to others, so their expectations will force you to work steadily toward it. Otherwise it might sneak up on you, forcing a poor choice.

4. Start Planning. Develop a better understanding of the issue, determining from there how the project contributes to and aligns with your organizational goals. Convene meetings to discuss all the angles, being frugal with your time and limiting attendance to contributing individuals. Conduct outside consultations as necessary. Design and undertake these actions with one goal in mind: to clarify the outcome of every (reasonable) decision and to determine which best benefits your organization.

Once you’ve covered the major factors, make your decision and move forward without letting the devilish details hold you back. As long as you remain flexible, you can handle them as you go. You’ll never foresee everything, and you might make the wrong move even after you’ve done your due diligence. But all business boils down to calculated risk, after all. If pressed, make the best decision you can, even if you’re not quite ready. You can always make course corrections later.

To use a delightful old-fashioned phrase, you “pays your money” and you “takes your chances.” But before you pay, at least make sure you know what you’re looking at.

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