Timing Decisions (and Playing Ball)

One of my colleagues at work recently shared a really nice metaphor around decision making that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. He noted that the timing of a decision is almost as important as the decisions you make. He likened the timing of a decision to swinging a bat in baseball – swing to early or late and you’ll sacrifice control of the ball (or worse, strike out altogether). But strike at the right time, and you’ll have more influence on how things play out.

I tend to hate sports/business metaphors, but I love this one. I also love the deeper implications of the relationship between the pitcher and batter. The pitcher creates the conditions for decision, and the batter decides when (and if) they will act. Sometimes, opting out of a decision altogether is powerful and important moment.

It can be easy to confuse decisions for progress. We’ll all nod our head at this sentiment, but we behave differently. After all, we’ve learned that decisions equal progress, so it’s easy to assume lack of decisions equal lack of process. This is so inbred that we feel obligated to make decisions when sometimes we should wait. This becomes even more difficult when working in teams, because delaying decisions can create angst for others.

In big decision moments, it’s important to create space for situations to unfold. It’s also important to create an agreement within the team that you’re waiting to make a decision (as opposed to afraid to decide.) By creating this space, you’ll learn about the intentions and motivations of others, and new options that weren’t apparent will emerge. 

So, when you’re grappling with decisions that involve people and many moving pieces, think about when you should decide as much as what you’re deciding on. The risk of waiting will often be rewarded by the serendipity of new options. 

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