The role of time in making great decisions

The time had come. “These four words are the essence of any great decision” (Profiles in Audacity, Alan Axelrod, 2006, Sterling Publishing Co.). This book tells us of many great decisions that had to be made throughout history and of the difficulties that faced the decision maker. Harry Truman is famous for the saying “The buck stops here.” However, when does it stop? Timing is the critical component of any great decision. Too early or too late and no decision is right.

Decision makers assume great responsibility. Decision makers assume that it is better to do something than nothing. Perhaps this is not true. With more patience, could we have had less wars and death? When we act too soon, we “rush to judge” and we may act without facts or understanding. When we act too late, the window of opportunity is closed and there is great loss. I do not need to point out the Rwandan and Cambodia massacres of the twentieth centuries as examples of where we should have acted sooner. We hesitated as a world to condemn these atrocities and millions died. In business, windows of opportunity are represented by new products, new value propositions and new business models. The first adopters do not always to benefit from the “new” but seldom do the “last” reap many major rewards. Thus, the trick is to be able to tell the difference between haste and sloth. When to wait and when not to? “When to “hold them or when to fold them?”

How can we improve our decision making and the timeliness of our decisions? The answer to this question probably depends on whether you are too often hasty or whether you procrastinate too much. Do you rush to judge without facts and data; or do you hem and haw in fear of making a mistake until it is too late? How many of the major decisions in your life have turned out well? Do you regret too many of the key decisions in your life? Your answer to these questions will suggest whether you need to be bolder or less bold in your timing and decision making.

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