We all make decisions. Constantly. Every single day of our
We all like to make decisions. Important people make
decisions. We like to feel important. We like to make decisions. It’s almost
like a drug. He who decides has power. He who decides is important. But with
great power comes great responsibility. And the responsibility that comes with
making decisions is the responsibility to accept when you discover they are
“wrong”, and change them when necessary. Unfortunately, changing decisions is
generally much harder than making them.
This is a big problem. This is a very very very big cultural
problem. People, in general, do not like changing decisions. In fact they
loathe it. Despise it. Would do almost anything to avoid it. Changing a
decision means you were wrong. Changing a decision means you made a mistake.
For these reasons (amongst others) changing a decision tends to be seen as a
really really bad thing. Changing a decision can be seen as a “climb down” or a
“U-turn”. Oh - how the press (and the opposition) love it when someone in
government changes a decision. They are vilified, pilloried, criticised and
hounded. Which is really really strange because a bad decision that was changed
is definitely better than a bad decision that was not. Of course, people want
right decisions, but all decisions are made on the basis of understanding the
context the decision was based on and the implications that were known to exist
at the time.
So, let’s understand what’s going on, because then, we will
perhaps be in a better position to change things for the better.
People make decisions, and are driven in part by their own
Those decisions are made about things, objects.
Those decisions are made, based on understanding the context
related to those things.
And based on understanding the implications the decision
will have for the object, and indeed for the person making the decision.
However, other people (driven by their own personal culture)
can discover information that the person who made the decision was not aware
This information could expose errors or differences in the
context on which the decision was made, or it could expose errors with or
changes to the implications on which the decision was made.
In turn this could require a change to the decision made.
This thought process is not what normally happens in
Enterprises though. What normally happens is more confrontational. People tend
to talk more in terms of decisions being wrong or flawed. But if we take away
the instances where someone is literally incompetent, we can say that there are
no bad decisions, only unknown or misunderstood context or unknown or
We have to be careful however, not to forget that a decision
not only has implications for the object the decision is being taken about,
but also implications for the person taking
the decision. Depending on their Personal Culture (which includes how the
Enterprise motivates them in terms of money, job security and career
progression). If the Enterprise rewards people with bonuses for plundering the
future for short term gain today, then you can hardly blame the person,.
It is therefore critical to instil a culture that actively
encourages this thought process to happen, rather than one that actively
discourages it. Rather than discouraging and denigrating people who expose new context or implications
(that may cause decisions to be changed) and trying to hide them, people should
be encouraged and applauded for exposing new context
There are no bad people. There are no bad managers. There
are no bad decisions. People make decisions based on the context and an understanding of the implications of those decisions, influenced by the
culture they operate within. All decisions are made within a context, and within that context
all decisions are 100% correct and valid. If they were not, the person
concerned would be deemed incompetent (which is another discussion). Other
people may not agree with a decision, but that is usually because they are
looking at the decision through the prism of their own context and their understanding of the implications. And so disagreements about decisions
are not actually disagreements about the decision itself, they are actually
disagreements about the context they were made
within, in addition to the Personal Culture of the person that made them,
and/or the implications that are known.
When people object to a decision, sometimes it is not the
decision they are objecting to, but the one or more implications of that
decision. Worse than that, the person objecting can think that the decision was
made specifically to create the implications they do not like.
So the way to change a decision is not to talk about the
decision per se, but to change the context the
decision was made within, or change the implications
that were known about, or to change the culture that
prevailed. But that will only work if the culture
allows the context to be changed or the implications to be changed, or the culture to be changed.
In fact, it could be said that Accountability is being able
to say “I made this decision because…”
“I made this decision because this was the context that was known to exist at the time the
decision was made, and these are the implications
that were known at the time the decision was made, and this is the culture that
existed at the time.
“An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to
- Orlando Aloysius Battista