Avoidant Decision Making
Let’s Wait and See
Avoidant decision-making works well when conditions and outcomes are highly uncertain, and the benefits of taking action are unclear.
- Slow – Fast 35% 35%
- Independent – Collaborative 15% 15%
- Hierarchical – Egalitarian 5% 5%
- Private – Transparent 60% 60%
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:
- The situation is unclear and ambiguous, and there isn’t enough reward for getting it right but significant penalties for getting it wrong
- There is a good chance the situation will go away on its own – it is only a matter of time
- The person asking for the action is not committed to the implementation. So you and the team might be left alone in the field
- Saves time and energy
- Keeps options open until it is more critical to make a decision
- Retains focus on current priorities
- Might create an impression of weak leadership (unable to make a decision?)
- The situation may change quickly, leaving you with not enough time to make an effective decision
- Overuse harms relationships
- Can constrain the whole organization if it becomes a general practice
- Assess the situation
- If the conditions apply – Do nothing
- If others request action, assess whether any element of the situation has changed
- If nothing has in fact changed, repeat Step 1. Be aware – Timing always changes.
Common Mistakes, Challenges and Traps
Not using the time to gather additional information
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 bad reputation
You can avoid making a decision, but you can’t avoid telling people about it. Externally, avoiding making a decision can appear cowardly. Let your team (and others) know that the decision is to avoid making a decision right now. There is a chance they might provide you with the missing information to decide.
Failing to follow up
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.