Persistence and Decision-MakingHave you dealt with this in management?

After serious discussion, and full consideration of the pros and cons, you make a difficult strategic decision. So you want to move on, but somebody you work with keeps revisiting that same decision. So you can never move on, because that person keeps bringing it back up.

For example, let’s say you’re a restaurant owner and you decide you’re not going to offer take-out food. It’s a tough decision and you decide your specific strategy doesn’t work with take-out. But after you’ve made that decision, every two weeks or so, one of your employees goes back to it again and insists you should be offering take-out. Assumptions haven’t changed, so it’s just repeatedly revisiting the same tough decision. And, way too often, it ends up forcing the decision; the right decision is overruled. The wrong decision wins.

I hate that. What happens is that persistence takes a business hostage. Instead of moving on, decisions come back into play repeatedly until the owner/leader/manager is worn down.

This problem involves a lot of nuance and paradox. It’s crazy to do something that’s not working just because you said you would. There is no virtue in following a plan just because it’s following a plan. On the other hand, decisions have to be made, strategy is focus, and often a business owner has to make a decision and move on.

The key to that nuance and paradox is whether assumptions have changed. Revising strategy because assumptions have changed makes perfect sense. But revisiting strategic decisions repeatedly because somebody doesn’t agree with what was decided? That’s dysfunctional.

I’d like a phrase for that kind of non-management. What would you call that? Management by inertia, maybe? Recursive non-strategy?

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.