• Difficult Negotiations
  • Crises & Conflicts
  • Credibility in Communication

Long-term success is never the work of chance and coincidence. It depends very much on the habits we have developed, which can either serve us faithfully or be our greatest curse.

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz

Not making a decision is a decision!

I’m thirteen in the race, going with a speed of 180 kph, slowing down to 110, entering the first right corner of a chicane, countering quickly to the left top. I am not aware that the tires are overheated, which affects the adhesion. Losing the grip I touched the wall hard, bending the tie rod of my steering. I already know that the rest of the race hangs on the changed geometry of the front wheels. The steering wheel started to work differently when cornering. I’m in the middle of the tenth lap out of the 14, and I wonder whether to go to the PIT STOP to perform a time-consuming repair, or to risk a total loss of steering during the remaining laps and finish as the last one. I have to make a decision, still being focused on what is going on the track. I feel that my concentration is falling apart. My brain begins to focus on things that avert my attention from the track. I am trying to save myself in a u-turn, losing more than half a second after leaving the apex. I pass the entrance to the PITSTOP. The decision is to go further. Risking the points for losing my position. If I survive I will gain a few points. 4 laps are dragging longer than the previous 10. I finish 13. The position from which I started the race. Feeling relieved I know that I could have finished a few positions earlier. Shit happens. If I had returned to the PITSTOP to repair the damage that would’ve meant the end of the race. My decision proved to be correct.

Sport, which depends on loads of variables verifies our decision-making skills, especially in crisis situations. If you do sports, which depends only on your preparation, the possibility of a crisis is lower. In car racing, where you have to take into account the large number of variables such as the setup of the car, the temperature of the tires, adhesion, changing track conditions, other rivals who can damage your car, the occurrence of a crisis is much greater. The same works in business. In a small scale business, the possibility of a crisis is small. The larger the scale, the greater the likelihood that something will go wrong.

In the previous post I referred to speculation in negotiations, without having a full picture. In this post I want to refer to a similar topic, but in the area of management. One of the components of the management is decision making and bearing the consequences of these decisions. Although the prestige associated with the executive position can be exciting, the consequences of bad decisions will not excite anyone, apart from competitors. Managerial position is not limited to wagging your index finger and telling your team – Do this, do that! An effective manager must possess many of the characteristics associated with Emotional Intelligence, which are responsible for success or failure of an organization or group they are responsible for. One of such characteristics is the ability to call the right shots. Invaluable asset is a thorough analysis of data. As you already know our brain is lazy (read the dark side of the twenty-first century) and does not like to be overloaded with data. The excess of information often leads to a decision paralysis, which was experienced by Thad Allen, head of the Coast Guard rescue operation during the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. His decision of not closing the airspace over the region resulted in several dangerous situations in which the aircraft narrowly escaped the collision.

When conducting management, negotiation or communication training I observe a bizarre tendency, which seems to be a recipe for their critical situation. The managers, when they have to make a difficult decision, act in two ways. One way of dealing with the uncomfortable decision is tossing a coin, or any similar approach. This method most often appears on negotiation training. The other way to deal with a difficult situation where there is a need to make an unpopular decision is a complete denial of the problem, manifesting openly that nothing critical happened. Such an approach is popular on training in management, where some critical decisions can be postponed due to naive thinking that limited time will save the trainees from any consequences. I do not understand it, as I cannot imagine settling the results of the race with a coin toss. Preparing the car badly, choosing the wrong setup, not knowing the racetrack inside out, not learning the braking points, not considering the behavior of other race drivers on the track will result in only one possible outcome – my chances of finishing the race in one piece are none.

Personally, both professionally and privately I am a supporter of a military approach to decision-making. Sun Tzu leaves no doubt – Military experts do not make mistakes. If they decide to act, their impact is irresistible. I therefore say: “Know yourself and know your enemy, only then your victory will not be endangered. Know well the terrain and weather conditions, then your victory will be complete.” In order to make good decisions, you need to perform data analysis. But first you have to have it. No data translates into speculation. This means a deficit of cognitive resources causing fear to arise. Fear makes you unable to make any decision. No making a decision is a decision not to make any decision.

Tomasz Piotr Sidewicz