There are many books and quotes about the topic of decisions. For example, the writer Paul Coelho says: ‘Life means making decisions and bearing the consequences’. Peter Drucker, US-American economist, says: ‘What managers decide not to do is often more important than what they decide to do’. Both confirm that the moment you decide FOR something, you also decide AGAINST something.
Thus, a decision requires to weigh the pros and cons and to choose the way that presents itself best. This goes hand in hand with rejecting all other possible paths.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
But it is not so true: Not only since the appearance of the term VUKA (stands for: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) during the Cold War we know that when making decisions not all advantages and disadvantages as well as all alternatives and options are always known. So what to do? One solution is to make decisions with the permanent possibility of revision. This prevents rigid adherence to the status quo and makes it possible to stay on course despite changing circumstances.
Effects of the Corona Pandemic
The pandemic has made the world even less predictable. Much of what we are experiencing today and in the coming years has not been there before. How can decisions be made on this basis? And can the course taken after a decision be maintained in the long term?
Let’s take a look at what is still true: Not deciding is still deciding. If you don’t decide anything, circumstances and conditions will change anyway, and you passively drift along with these changes without actively intervening. So, is not deciding the best way?
If everyone thought this way, so many new business models would not have emerged in recent months: Restaurants with delivery services, machinery and equipment manufacturers building respirators, textile producers making protective masks, or trade fair builders creating meeting places. Everything has made our lives easier – and would not have come into being if those responsible in the companies had not made decisions.
What could you call this kind of decision-making? I would call it agile, because decisions are made on the basis of what is known at the moment the decision is made. What is difficult, on the other hand, are decisions that have a long-term impact and go beyond the horizon that can be roughly predicted.
Decisions today: Important questions
There are therefore three questions to be asked when making upcoming decisions:
- what can I see today that will be needed in the next three months or less? Or what is expected of me? Or what I expect myself?
- what possibilities do I have to react to this situation / these requirements?
- how long will it take me to adapt to it?
Maybe we play out an example that is currently on the minds of more than a few of us: The summer vacation
- can I already see today, in February, what the summer of travel will be like?
- Whether long-distance travel will be possible is uncertain.
- Whether air travel will be possible is uncertain
- Whether hotel stays will be possible is uncertain
- That the possibility to move around outdoors will be limited is rather unlikely
- what would I like to experience in the summer?
- what can I do without, what would I definitely not want to miss?
- how willing am I to take risks?
Depending on the answers to the last two questions, I will book a plane trip, rent a caravan, or buy materials to remodel the garden.
Decisions in mega-VUKA time are likely to be easier to make, and easier to follow through on, the more the decision is based on what is within one’s control.
On the other hand, the more third-party input is required, the more uncertain decisions become. The more often you check a decision once it has been made to see whether all the assumptions still apply, the better you can react to changes and make friends with a possibly changed goal.
Therefore: Have the courage to make decisions – but make sure that you have a lot in your own hands and remain as independent as possible. Then decisions have a good chance of being successful in these turbulent times.
If you are looking for a competent sparring partner when making decisions: Sign is enough!