The Wheel of Indecision: 10 Real Costs

Decision making skills are crucial at all levels of business, but many companies get stuck in the revolving door of indecision. It's often assumed that CXOs and key decision makers (KDMs) have good decision-making skills, but very frequently team-oriented decision making and action taking are confused with the ability to call the shots and make plays from a somewhat less-involved position. 

Delegating, deflecting, or hinting at a plan without assigning real tasks and following up are all just dressed up ways to delay. The costs of indecision are plenty and high - including more paperwork and workflow nightmares as things get lost in the shuffle and fall through the cracks. Avoid the endless volley of indecision and take back the reigns by identifying which kind of decision-maker you (and your company's key players) are.

Which One Are You?

Progressive, thriving companies have it all figured out. They know when to act and they follow a linear decision-making process. Rarely do important initiatives get dragged out for months with little to no follow-up because someone didn’t make a call or complete a task when they said they would.

Here's how it's supposed to work:

  1. An idea or problem is proposed or presented
  2. The appropriate team of people meets to discuss
  3. If a solution or course of action is suggested, action items are assigned, deadlines are given, and progress updates or follow-ups occur in a timely fashion
  4. If development of a solution or course of action requires further discussion, a follow-up is scheduled and everyone involved knows what is still needed and does their part

And of course, all of this is well-documented and shared with the stakeholders. You may be saying, “yeah, in a perfect world,” but isn’t that what we should all be striving toward, at least most of the time? Apathy isn’t good for business, and the sad reality is that a visit to 9 out of 10 small-to-mid sized companies would reveal gaps or kinks in the above workflow, where failure to identify action items, indecision, inaction, failure to incorporate accountability measures, and further delay are much more common.

There are many reasons this kills production, some obvious and others not-so-obvious. In companies where the carousel and see-saw approach are normal, one of the more subtle implications is that people don’t take their work – or each other – seriously. This decreases morale, hinders progress, and slows productivity. In the case of the hamster wheel scenario, indifference breeds like bacteria. What’s anyone’s real motivation to get anything done when poor follow-up and lack of accountability are accepted as the norm?

The 10 Real Costs

The costs of indecision, absence of timely follow-up, and inaction at the core of company matters are numerous, but the price doesn’t have to be high. Let’s take a look at the 10 real costs of continued, widespread indecision:

  1. Necessary steps toward achieving business goals are postponed in every area
  2. Paperwork, workflow and process nightmares become overwhelming as things get lost in the shuffle from being endlessly recapped, rescheduled, and reworked
  3. Teams dissolve as coworkers begin to finger-point and take a more passive approach
  4. Morale is decreased as people start to feel drained, exhausted and unimportant
  5. Time is wasted searching for, reiterating, and holding meetings about previously discussed material that wasn’t acted on
  6. Opportunities are missed
  7. The lines of communication get clogged and expectations get misunderstood
  8. Communication is given up on as workers start to feel that their efforts are ignored or unheard
  9. People stop striving and trying to be creative or pursue bigger projects
  10. Customer service and the company ideal are compromised as employees become less motivated and interested in their work

And there’s actually an 11th potential cost, if the problem becomes so widespread that it transcends the 4 walls of the business: you may get a reputation as being a difficult company to work with, and partnering companies, vendors or customers might start trying to steer clear of doing business with you. Basically, patterns of indecision cause businesses to deteriorate from the inside out. Apathy and indifference can permeate the very fabric of a company, affecting each and every team member. Certain people may try to promote change, but if leadership revolves around the wheel of indecision, no real change will occur until the company addresses its weaknesses from the top down.

What Can You Do?

There are software solutions which can facilitate transparency, follow-up, and more efficient workflows, but they only fix a small part of the problem. Technology won’t repair the interpersonal relationships and prompt the return of the right attitudes. Don’t let your business stagnate and don’t get a reputation of being hard to deal with. It all starts by embracing – and enforcing – a culture that, at its core and as a whole, is responsive, engaged, collaborative, nurturing, accountable, and fast-acting, from the top down.