Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

The plight of indecision


Indecision is a key cause of lethargy and lack of productivity. Indecision begets procrastination. Indecision robs people and companies of enthusiasm, purpose and ultimately success.

Indecision is the thief of opportunity. -Jim Rohn

Indecision is often worse than wrong action. -Henry Ford

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision. -William James

Understanding the meaning of the word ‘decision’ sheds light on the reason for indecision. When you make a decision you quite literally cut yourself off from other alternatives. You settle on one option at the expense of all others. You settle on a single alternative after having many options. Whittling down the options to one can be downright scary. Not wanting to limit yourself to one option is the plight of indecision.

Do not let indecision run your life. When you are faced with a choice, carefully — but quickly — weigh the options, select the one you believe works best, and leave the rest behind. Don’t look back. Don’t second guess yourself. Move forward with confidence.

Leadership requires the ability to make decisions.

The Product Management Perspective: Indecision can mean the death of a successful product release. When you encounter decisions that must be made about your product, get the information and make the decision. Don’t procrastinate; your product’s success requires your willingness to make tough decisions.

4 thoughts on “The plight of indecision

  1. I couldn’t agree more. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda” has been the death of more products. If you use a repeatable method founded on market fact and real evidence, then the indecisions will start to disappear and confidence emerge.

  2. Indecision is making the “do nothing” choice each day. When a pilot does that, we call it a crash. When a manager does that they say “Europe was soft this quarter.”

    Indecision is accepting the cost of abating the problem, or accepting the loss of the revenue that the decision faced. Either way, the real outcome of indecision isn’t straight and normal flight, or growth. The real outcome is down, and down faster. “Are we vertical yet?”

    A guy I worked with told me that if he didn’t make the decision, his boss would eat him alive. It didn’t matter if he made a good or bad decision, as long as it was made and committed to.

    Time shapes all decisions. Time shapes all costs. If you practice cost management, then you have to make that decision immediately. A decision has an NPV. Waiting costs more and earns less. Waiting multiplies the downside.

    If an employee sits at their desk all day doing nothing, most managers wouldn’t tolerate it. So why is it we tolerate decisions sitting at our desk doing nothing for days, months, quarters, years and years on end?

    “Hey, you, decision 423, clean out your desk, you’re fired!” Get security. Decisions tend to loiter on the way out.

  3. @Jim – Nice contrast of indecision and confidence. Vacillation and hesitancy chip away at a person’s confidence. Being decisive builds confidence. Being decisive does not guarantee you will always be right, but you will get to “right” much quicker and more efficiently.

    @ David – I agree that decisions have an NPV and waiting costs more. Your comparison of a decision sitting around with an employee sitting around doing nothing really drives home the problem of not making decisions. The more we leave decisions ‘loitering’ the more trouble we ask for.

    Thanks for your comments. -Michael

  4. There is danger in this, and I think you commented on it nicely, of rushing a decision. Picking a choice without sufficient analysis can be equally dangerous. However, ‘analysis paralysis’ can choke the moral out of an entire group.

    I guess my takeaway is to understand your options, understand the timeline, understand what success and failure looks like and then work like a dog to satisfy your selection criteria for a decision.

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