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Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan

SidetrackedThe following except is from Professor Francesca Gino’s book, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed and How We Can Stick to the Plan.

The business press often reports stories of CEOs, managers, and their companies setting out to accomplish specific goals and ending up with very different outcomes. In my own study of various organizations, I have observed several circumstances in which decision makers are likely to get sidetracked. Experienced managers may plan carefully for their negotiations but end up with very different deals after being caught up “in the heat of the moment.” Similarly, team leaders may plan to spur success by using a participative approach to problem solving but fail due to their difficulty putting themselves in their team members’ shoes.

Why do our plans so often go astray?

My research led me to a puzzling conclusion about our nature as human beings: our goals and plans are often inconsistent with how we actually behave.

Whether we are making plans for today, next week, or many years from now, when the actual moment of decision arrives, subtle forces can sidetrack us. Typically, getting sidetracked leads to disappointing outcomes and negative consequences for both ourselves and our organizations. It also leads us to regret the fact that we didn’t follow through on our plans.

There are three sets of forces that sidetrack our decisions as we implement our plans:

(1) forces from within ourselves,
(2) forces from our relationships with others, and
(3) forces from the outside world.

Understanding how these forces operate can be helpful in two main ways. First, it can help us stick to our well-thought-out plans going forward. Second, it can help us understand and decode the often puzzling behavior of our colleagues, friends, and bosses.

The three forces are just the beginning. To learn more about Professor Gino’s research, including how you can actually stay on track when it comes to decision making, check out her book, Sidetracked.

Smart decision-making creates countless benefits for your business

Brad Haudan, VP of Client Development, Root Inc. contests that 90 percent of teams that want to elevate their performance to the next level focus on improving their team decision-making. However, certain team members tend to put their own agendas ahead of the team’s agenda, on top of their inability to think, learn, and make decisions as a team.

There are times when the team isn’t clear about what the decision is solving for, as the decision target keeps moving due to a lack of upfront clarity.

There are times when leaders think they’re paying attention and listening to the issue at hand. In reality, they are forming their response while someone else is sharing their perspective. As proven by a study conducted by the Columbia Business School, leaders who don’t carefully listen diminish their impact.1

Smart decision-making creates countless benefits for your business

First, when the decision-making responsibilities are divided appropriately, better decisions are made because they are made at the right level of the organization.
Leaders are freed up because a good portion of the decisions they often make are now made at other levels of the organization.
Most importantly, the next level of leaders is empowered to make decisions, build capability, and become more engaged in the business.
Decision-making is a skill – it’s something that can be learned.
With an intentional step-by-step process, reaching decisions will go from painful and time-consuming to positive and productive.

About Karly A.

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