The Three Reasons Decisions are Difficult

In last week’s post, I described the fact that making difficult decisions is the essential responsibility of mission driven organization leaders. Sure, sure… you say, but I’ll take it one layer further back. Why are some decisions difficult in the first place? And why does that even matter?

Sometimes leadership teams, boards, and individual executives are faced with a challenging situation, one that must be addressed for the betterment of the organization. I have found that it can be quite helpful to understand and even isolate the reason… or reasons… that the decision is difficult. Breaking it down as such can be useful to the decision maker(s) as naming the reason or reasons can help that person or team consider the options and then communicate about the it more clearly and effectively down the line.

Decision are mostly difficult because of three different factors:

  1. Human impact

    Perhaps the decision will negatively effect someone or groups of individuals. Perhaps that effect will be more than simply negative, it might even be devastating. No one relishes the prospect of having to push that particular button.

  2. Risk and uncertainty

    Sometimes a decision is hard because the outcome is unclear and hard to predict, despite your best efforts, thoughtful discussions, consensus building, and careful analyses.

  3. Identity/mission challenge

    Sometimes a scenario arises whereby a decision maker has to do something that cuts against the very grain of the organization’s past and maybe even storied history. Perhaps it can be viewed as contrary to the very purpose that organization exists. If so, that does not mean it is an inherently wrong choice.

Again, thinking through the reason(s) a decision is hard can help influence the decision making process and then the manner in which it can be explained to those subsequently impacted.

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