Accelerate your decision-making with this powerful sentence
“Is it safe-to-try?” is a short but very powerful move that should be in the toolkit of every leadership team.
When faced with a decision, I’ve heard people say:
Are you sure that will work?
We can’t do that without *also* doing x…
I think we should hear the opinion of x, y and z before we say yes
Let’s wait until x, before we commit to y
We can’t decide this now, because x is not in the room
I don’t think we have the right people to execute x
That sounds risky, I don’t think we should do it
We should do some research first
Have you thought of [my better idea]?
Before we decide, we should really talk about [rabbithole]
Do we all agree with this?
These are all reasonable but unhelpful responses. It creates divergence instead of convergence. It causes decisions to be pushed back. It reduces the amount of learning and momentum that we so desperately need. It wrongfully assumes we can plan and predict the outcome.
So how to get out of this trap?
Ask if the proposed decision is ‘safe-to-try.’ Meaning: is it safe to try this, to learn if it works, get some data, and then come back for another decision if we need to?
Notice that this bar is very different from the usual bar that we make decisions with: ‘is it perfect?’ or ‘how can we integrate everyone’s opinion in it?’ or ‘how can we make sure this won’t fail?’ or ‘how can we make sure this won’t backfire or frustrate [leader x]?’
Maybe the answer is ‘no, it is not safe-to-try.’ Spark a conversation by asking: what would make it safe-to-try?
reduce the scope: if it fails, it will blow up at a smaller scale
reduce the duration: if it fails, we haven’t spent years chasing something
reduce funding or impact: if it fails, it hasn’t cost us that much
Make sure the decision is still radical enough that you will learn something valuable, so you can go back to the drawing board and increase scope/duration/funding/impact if necessary.
(Graphic by Alastair Steward & Sam Spurlin)
More decision making advice here:
Create an empowered organization using participatory governance
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