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What effect does Personal Culture have on the decisions that people make?


Don’t talk of bad decisions.|Talk of changes to the Context, and/or the Implications that those decisions were based upon.

We all make decisions. Constantly. Every single day of our lives. Those decisions are made based on a context and the resulting implications. We 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.

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.

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).

At any time after a decision is made, changes to the context or implications that were previously understood may change, which may require a re-evaluation and a possible change in the decision.

It is therefore critical to instil a culture that actively encourages this 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 or implications.

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. Other people may not agree with a decision, but that is because they are looking at the decision through the prism of their own context and 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 correct it.”

- Orlando Aloysius Battista

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