Sometimes we're unaware that we're acting in haste, possibly because recognizing haste requires pausing to assess our condition. Still, recognizing haste is important, because haste, as they say, makes waste. But haste can do far more than make waste. Failure, bankruptcy, and threats to life and limb can follow, too, though not in every situation. Some signs of haste are obvious: the emergency meeting; sending out for dinner for everyone; or having people phone in from airports. But some signs of haste are more difficult to discern. A sampling:
- Rescheduling meetings too close to deadlines
- Decision quality can suffer when critical decision-making meetings are rescheduled from, say, a month before deadline to a day before the deadline. Cushioning intervals between decisions and deadlines make space for safety mechanisms.
- For example, these intervals let us seek outside support such as advice, research, or references. A zero-cushion rescheduling can compel us to decide now, at the meeting, irrevocably, and that can prevent us from foreseeing the foreseeable.
- Decisions require time, sometimes beyond the actual meetings at which they're drafted. Scheduling (or rescheduling) those meetings must take that time into account.
- Delivering supporting exhibits late
- If a decision depends on examining exhibits — documents, reports, experimental results, or other intelligence — and if delivery is late, decision makers might be unable to review the material adequately before the decision. They might be unable to grasp its full implications.
- Making decisions on time despite late exhibit delivery could mean that scheduling is more valued than decision quality. In effect, to compensate for the late delivery, the decision makers are sacrificing time they need.
- Determine Making decisions on time despite
late exhibit delivery could
mean that scheduling is more
valued than decision qualityin advance the minimum interval between exhibit delivery and the decision. Deciding about the minimum interval in the moment biases the group in favor of haste. Minimum intervals between deliveries and decisions might depend on the nature of the decisions.
- New team member pressure
- Sometimes, when new team members join a group, we feel compelled to proceed before they can become familiar with the issue at hand. Formally, the new members supposedly represent important constituencies or expertise, but that representation can be ineffective if familiarity with the immediate issue is limited.
- Making group decisions with inadequate representation of important constituencies or expertise exposes the group to risk. Mere assignment to the team of someone with relevant attributes doesn't make that person capable of functioning as intended.
- Establish criteria for team readiness before making critical decisions. As with exhibit delivery, the criteria might depend on the nature of the decision.
When the stakes are high, and both speed and decision quality are essential, lean toward quality. Make an agreement in your group that once the signs of haste are acknowledged, you'll take previously agreed-upon steps to limit the errors that haste can facilitate. Accept that you might have to decide in haste, but if you do, do it with eyes open. Next in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Organizational Firefighting
- Sometimes companies or projects get into trouble, and "fires" erupt one after another. When
this happens, we say we're in "firefighting" mode. But it's more than a metaphor — we
have a lot to learn from wildland firefighters.
- Tactics for Asking for Volunteers: II
- When we seek volunteers for specific, time-limited tasks, a common approach is just to ask the entire
team at a meeting or teleconference. It's simple, but it carries risks. There are alternatives.
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- Down in the Weeds: I
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on March 6: A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action. Available here and by RSS on March 6.
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