How to drastically reduce the cost of decisions

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We've all been there—a meeting where people are fighting tooth and nail to have The Right Decision™. Details are argued over and over, important anecdotes are brought up against data, data is cited to illustrate the risks. Those meetings are costly, draining, and often result in more meetings being scheduled.

The question is often: why is it so hard for people to agree on something?

But, I think that this is the wrong way to frame the problem. It's absolutely normal for a group to diverge on analysis. Heck, this is why you put together a team of diverse folks. Different backgrounds will have different perspectives, which in turn helps have more thoughtful debates.

No, the problem is not about the people, but rather about the frequency of the meeting bringing these people together.

Faster feedback cycles create a leaner decision process

If you tell me that I can only change direction every 4 to 12 weeks, then I will feel pressure to make a great choice—this is where the paralysis comes from. The plan needs to be close to perfection because it'll be 4 to 12 weeks' worth of the wrong effort if I'm mistaken.

Now, if you tell me that we'll meet again next week to see how things go, then I can accept more uncertainty. It's okay to hesitate between 2 strong hypotheses because we'll have more data next week to make a better choice. This effect can be commonly observed with Product teams. Teams that ship code every week are much better at experimenting than those that can only release changes a couple of times during the quarter.

You can also apply this principle to strategy. Teams that review OKRs weekly can make better and faster decisions than teams that only check progress on their OKRs once a month.

Don't try to be right—it's expensive. Instead, strive to minimize the cost of being wrong.

PS: there's much more that OKRs can borrow from dev teams.

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Sten Pittet

Co-founder and CEO, Tability

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