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The Benefits of Delaying Decisions

I just received an insightful email from Mike Cohn, and I wanted to share his thoughts on the benefits of delaying decisions. Let me summarize his key points for you:

Mike finds himself facing a decision after leaving the airport, where he has two routes to choose from: side streets or the highway. While the highway is usually faster, various factors can make it slower at times. To tackle this, Mike defers his decision until he catches a glimpse of the highway’s traffic. This way, he doesn’t need to decide in advance how to drive home from the airport, but instead waits until he has the necessary information.

Mike’s perspective resonates with me, as it highlights the importance of allowing in-the-moment decisions to unfold. Often, we make decisions about distant events without considering the impact of immediate circumstances. To truly understand how work flows and master our tasks, we must embrace the power of in-the-moment decisions. This is precisely why many organizations adopt iterative and agile approaches.

Deferring decisions can be immensely valuable. We tend to rush into making choices that could have waited, missing out on the opportunity for more informed decisions. In the world of lean practices, this is known as the “last responsible moment” — the point at which a decision is made for you if you haven’t acted by then.

I think we often make decisions too quickly, without taking the time to consider all of our options. This can lead to us making bad decisions or missing out on opportunities.

So Here are a few of the benefits of delaying decisions:

  • You get more information. When you delay a decision, you have more time to gather information and learn more about the situation. This can help you make a better decision.

  • You have more options. As you learn more about the situation, you may discover new options that you hadn’t considered before. This can give you more flexibility and make it easier to find a solution that works for you.

  • You avoid making a rushed decision. When you’re under pressure to make a decision, it’s easy to make a bad one. By delaying a decision, you can take the time to think things through and make a decision that you’re confident in.

Of course, there are also times when it’s important to make a decision quickly. But if you have the time, I encourage you to consider delaying your decision. It could save you time, money, and stress in the long run.

Here are a few tips for delaying decisions:

  • Acknowledge that you don’t have to make a decision right away. It’s okay to say, “I need more time to think about this.”

  • Set a deadline for making a decision. This will help you avoid procrastination and make sure that you don’t take too long to make a decision.

  • Gather information. Talk to people who are knowledgeable about the situation. Do some research online. Read books and articles about the topic.

  • Brainstorm solutions. Once you have more information, start brainstorming possible solutions. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

  • Evaluate your options. Consider the pros and cons of each option. Weigh the risks and rewards.

  • Make a decision. Once you’ve evaluated all of your options, it’s time to make a decision. Be confident in your decision and don’t second-guess yourself.

  • Delaying decisions can be a challenge, but it’s a valuable skill to learn. By taking the time to delay decisions, you can make better decisions and avoid making mistakes.

Personally, I appreciate Mike’s analogy of being in the rightmost lane leaving the airport. Unless we actively change lanes, we’ll end up on the highway by default. The last responsible moment serves as a reminder that decisions made for us are still decisions, and it’s crucial to be in control of our choices.

So, when it comes to decision-making in projects or any aspect of work, consider the power of deferring decisions. Ask yourself if there’s value in waiting and assess the short-term and long-term impacts. Remember, not every decision falls into this category, but many do. By understanding the scope of your goals and the potential for change, you can make better-informed choices.


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