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Mar14Shoot from the Hip or Think it Through?
Created by Charles B. Kreitzberg on 3/14/2012 10:47:02 PM

Rash decision-making is so common, that it led to the idiom of “shooting from the hip.” It comes fr...
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Shoot from the Hip or Think it Through?

by Charlie Kreitzberg on Mar 14, 2012

Shoot from the Hip or Think it Through?

It seems pretty basic that taking action without a clear understanding of the situation you are facing would be a poor approach to decision-making.But the nature of business organizations is that you may encounter a surprising amount of resistance to taking the time to carefully assess the situation you are trying to address.

Here are three of the most common arguments you may encounter:

1. We don’t have time to think about it.

We are often overwhelmed by a great sense of urgency. When you are racing to get too many things done, you don't have a great deal of time to reflect before they act. In my experience, a lot of this urgency is manufactured. Sometimes it's caused by people being unwilling to move into action until the pressure ratchets up. Sometimes its a result of a deliberate management strategy to keep projects moving by creating tight deadlines and budgets. The idea is that the team will need to focus on the essentials and work really hard to avoid failure. There is little tolerance for analytical and design phases that are seen as slowing things down and possibly raising issues that people would rather not face.

2. There are thinkers and doers – we need doers.

This argument is an example of a logical fallacy called the “false dichotomy.” The impression is that there are only two kinds of people. Some are “eggheads” who just think about things but never make them happen. Then there are “action heroes” who don’t waste time in fruitless rumination and just get things done.

The problem with dividing the world into “thinkers” and “doers” is that it’s not an accurate picture of reality. These are both stereotypes with enough of a grain of truth that we can recognize the characters in a situation comedy or action film. But in real life the most successful people are those who are both thinkers and doers.

3. Let's make a decision now and get things going. Then we can correct the problems later.

This is one of those strategies that can be very effective in some cases and devastating in others. How well it works depends on how easy it is to make the needed changes later.

If you keep working on things until they are perfect you may never get them done. Getting a less than perfect solution out and rapidly refining it is basic to an agile strategy. But some things cannot be “fixed later” or are too expensive to fix later and these bad decisions carry an on-going cost.

I believe strongly that the better you understand a situation, the better decisions you will be able to make about how to respond to it. That does not mean you should waste time or get sucked into analysis paralysis. It does mean that before you start evaluation solutions, you should get a clear handle on the problem. Think through what the root question or cause of the problem is. Flesh out the question so that you understand implications, costs and risks. Then share your understanding of the problem with stakeholders so you gain the support you will need when you propose a course of action.


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