When Convenience Rules Decision-Making

Arthur Miller once asked how many decisions are made simply because it’s Friday and it is five o’clock.

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There’s a old joke about a man who was looking for a lost ring in his kitchen. A friend asked him when he had lost the ring, and he replied, “I lost it sometime this morning in the living room.” The friend asked, “If you lost it in the living room, why are you looking for it in the kitchen?” The man replied, “Because there’s more light in the kitchen.”

[See 10 rules of E-mail etiquette.]

Well, I suppose you had to be there to appreciate the keen wit.

The joke, however, does have one virtue. It illustrates how we can look for convenient solutions instead of real ones. If we have an employee who is not performing well, it may be convenient to conclude that the employee is sloppy or has a poor attitude or just doesn’t want to do a good job. Once we’ve reached that quick conclusion, we can shut down any analysis.

[See why looking busy is such a problem.]

Rather than leaping to label the person, it makes more sense to determine if the employee knows the job priorities, needs training, has sufficient resources, is capable of doing the job, is interfered with, or is inadvertently punished if the job is done well. Those possibilities take more time, but they may be the real location of the problem and not just a convenient one.

There are convenient decisions that aren’t as wacky as looking in the kitchen for a ring that was lost in the living room. Arthur Miller once wondered about how many decisions are made simply because it’s Friday and it is five o’clock. I suspect that in many of those instances, there is the acknowledgment that prolonging the decision-making may not improve it. As the saying goes, the best is the enemy of the good.

[See 12 ways to be miserable at work.]

Is Karen the best person for that assignment to Paris? Perhaps not, but she’s good enough. She’s between assignments right now. We don’t want to go through the hassle of a formal search. Give her a call. Tell her she’s on her way to France.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.

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