Taking a Sit

It is easy to get "buy-in" for a popular decision.

Everybody who thinks we should give everybody $1000, raise your hand. All opposed? The ayes have it.

Unfortunately, just because a decision is popular, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. It just makes it the easy thing to do. I call this - taking a sit. Let's face it, no one likes their job to be any harder than necessary. And, this has the easy answer of "well, it's what the majority wanted", and we've been taught since grade school, that democracies are "good".

Making the popular decision also has the effect of making the most people happy with the decision maker - This makes it quite popular with folks that want to feel the love.

Once in a while, a decision maker will examine the issues, and decide on a course of action. Then, when that course of action is announced to a wider audience, it receives a negative reponse. Now, there is a dilemma - stay the course, or do the popular thing. A politician will, of course, find a way to change course and do the popular thing. The really adept politician will even find a way to dissociate him(or her)self from the earlier decision - essentially rewriting history. We could even call this - taking a lie.

Sometimes, though, a manager needs to make a decision that will be wildly unpopular. Why? Because it's the right thing to do in the situation. It won't win you any popularity contests. It won't make you friends. It won't make people smile at you in the hall. But, you're being paid to do the right thing, not be popular. This is what leaders do.

Sometimes, you even have to make a decision with little or no data. This makes it even harder to know you are doing the right thing. It also makes it easier for people to line up behind the popular decision, leaving you feeling even more isolated and questioning what you are doing. But, you still need to make the decision anyway.

Now, when making an unpopular decision, it's quite possible that some things can be done to make people less unhappy. After all, the the goal is not to maximize the unhappiness. But, it is to make the right decision.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times where the popular thing is also the right thing. But, not always. That's when you need to take a stand.



Previous Articles

Three Kinds of Engineers

Only Half Full

Taking a Sit

Making Decisions with Less Data

Temporal nature of success

Being overqualified

Defining what you're building

The real problem


Origins of the name


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The Tarpit Chronicles
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