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  • Writer's pictureCooper Shattuck

Making Decisions: The Rule of Do It

These days, there is simply more of everything, and it all moves faster. More demands on our time. More opportunities. More potential expenses. More stuff. More technology. More competition. Supersize everything. And get it all now. It’s amazing. And it’s exhausting. All these things create the need for more decision making yet nothing, not even AI, can make those for us. Those who succeed can and will efficiently and effectively make decisions.


chalk figure man stares at three arrows indicating options

This sounds simple. Is this really a necessary topic for discussion?


After practicing for almost 35 years and consulting for the last 7, I can tell you that the biggest problem I see is lawyers who cannot or will not make a decision, followed distantly by those who make poor ones.


For a business where the owner’s time is literally or effectively money, we squander it. We’ll spend more time analyzing a potential solution than we risk with a wrong decision. Or we’ll spend even more time creating possible downsides, regardless of their likelihood of occurring or their potential impact, than addressing the substance of the issue at hand. It’s the classic case of spending 10 partner hours making a $1,000 decision.


We worry about a potential downside rather than evaluating its real impact. Simply because there is a risk doesn’t mean the path cannot be taken. There are many lawyers who practice this way. They always tell their clients that they shouldn’t do something in order to avoid a potential risk. Successful clients simply want to know what the risks are so that they can make the decision whether the take it or not. This “just say no” approach to counseling is disastrous when it is applied as a business model for the law firm.


Everyone’s tolerance for risk is different. And we would all probably agree that are some baseline risks that should simply be avoided when it comes to practicing law – like those which involve jeopardizing your professional reputation. We don’t look at violating our professional standards based upon weighing the risk of whether we may get caught (or we shouldn’t). But when it comes to business decisions, the same standard shouldn’t apply.


Let’s face it, most decisions that many avoid or delay making could easily be fixed or rectified if proven wrong. Make a bad hire? Let them go. That new location didn’t work out? Move. That software doesn’t work as it was represented? Get another. That marketing strategy didn’t prove effective? Do something else.


Of course, data should drive decisions where possible. Seeking insight, recommendations, advice, and input are easier to come by than ever. Homework should be done. Weighing risk and opportunity is a must. Considering unintended consequences and unforeseen risks should be explored. Being efficient in decision making does not mean being foolish.


But the big problem is making the decision to start with. Don’t put it off. It isn’t going to get easier to decide. And it might get more difficult when you are under additional pressures to decide it. Don’t fret. Pull the trigger and move on.


We know about great successes in history in large part because someone took a calculated risk. We don’t know the stories of those who simply did nothing. Leaders lead. They make decisions. Be a leader.

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