Avoidant Decision Making

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Avoidant Decision Making

Avoidant decision making works well when conditions are highly uncertain and the benefits of taking action are unclear.

Overview

Slow Fast
Independent Collaborative
Hierarchical Egalitarian
Private Transparent

Let's wait and see.

Ironically, deciding not to decide is often highly strategic. This is also known as the “wait and see” approach.

Avoidant decision making is worth considering when:

  1. The situation is ambiguous and there is little reward for getting it right but major penalties for getting it wrong
  2. You suspect the underlying situation may go away on its own
  3. You sense that the person requesting action isn’t committed to implementing it

Pros:

  • Saves time and energy
  • Keeps your options open
  • Retains focus on current priorities
 

Cons:

  • Situation may change suddenly, leaving you in a vulnerable position
  • Overuse harms relationships and conveys weak leadership
  • Can hamstring the whole organization if it becomes a normal practice

The Process

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Do nothing
  3. If others request action, assess whether any element of the situation has changed
  4. If nothing has in fact changed, repeat Step One

Avoid These Common Traps

Failing to keep tabs on the situation
When the situation first appears, do your research. Decide under what circumstances a decision is absolutely necessary and set regular check-ins to evaluate those circumstances.

Getting caught out when you can’t put it off any longer 
If you're putting off the decision because you lack sufficient information (and the situation isn't urgent), don't forget to put plans in place to gather that information if it does in fact exist someplace. The situation may change quickly and you'll need at least some information to inform your decision.

Gaining a reputation for being unresponsive
You can avoid making a decision, but you can't avoid telling people about it. From the outside, avoiding a decision can appear cowardly or aloof. Let the people closest to the decision in on your game plan. Maybe they’ll see you’re right to put it off, or maybe there’s more to the story that’s worth hearing. 
 


Alternative Models

Gathering more input is smart in ambiguous circumstances. When the time comes, consider a consultative process of gathering input from others.

If conditions remain uncertain but the stakes of the decision drop, you can always try a stochastic decision making process.