Monday, February 01, 2016

The Dangers of Decisiveness

Last week, Derek Pankratz and I published a new article in the Deloitte Review.  The article focuses on decisiveness, and it is titled, "Crossing the mental Rubicon: Don't let decisiveness backfire."   Here's a summary:

We demand that leaders be decisive, but research in social psychology and behavioral economics suggests that decisiveness is not an unequivocal good. Studies on “mindset” reveal that, when contemplating an important decision, prematurely focusing on execution can exacerbate decision-making biases and lead to overconfidence and excessive risk-taking.

In the article, we describe two mindsets for decision-makers.  We argue that people adhere to a deliberative mindset as they are making a critical choice.  They are contemplating the options they might pursue to achieve their goals, and they are evaluating the consequences of various courses of action. At some point, people shift to an implemental mindset. At this stage, individuals focus on how to execute a particular plan of action. They consider the key steps involved in implementation, who will be responsible for those elements of their plan, and how progress will be measured. Of course, decision-makers often look ahead to issues of execution as they are contemplating their choice. We argue that jumping ahead into the implemental mindset too soon can be dangerous. Here's the core of our argument:

Herein lies the danger. Even if a decision seems correct at the time it was made, new facts may arise, warranting reconsideration. However, the implemental mindsets we adopt to help us achieve our chosen goals can exacerbate a host of judgmental and decision-making biases. An execution-oriented frame of mind may encourage “tunnel vision” and lead to overconfidence and excessive risk taking. In the end, individuals may stick to decisions that no longer make sense, with potentially disastrous consequences.

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