Face a Difficult Decision?

The following excerpt from Larry Steinmetz’s book, “Kansas Sense: Simple Business Wisdom from the Heartland,” illuminates practical and philosophical stories that easily resonate with leaders from all walks of life.



Having to make difficult decisions is a common and necessary occurrence for any business team. These decisions can pertain to many different areas. It can involve deciding on how to market, how to design or how and when to release a new product or service. 

Or it can be determining key customer service policies, shipping and collection practices.  It can involve any business decision that will directly or indirectly affect your customers and as a result, your level of success.

You may be wrestling with some of these decisions on your own or maybe you have thrown it out to your team members to debate. Often in evaluating these decisions many angles and ramifications are considered and there is usually some level of merit in each scenario.  Management teams can get bogged down in this process so much so that it’s possible that nothing really happens. At these times no decision is reached and the subject is tabled for further evaluation and discussion.

This is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is best to further study all the related issues of a very important decision but this should be the exception and not the rule.

I have found that in these situations a simple but very effective tie-breaker is to introduce the perceived point of view of the competition. Tell your team that you want to shift gears a little bit and to take five minutes and discuss the issue as if they were the management team of your largest competitor. What an eye opener this can be!

It definitely shifts the focus. By considering and forecasting what “the competition would want you to do or not do” it breaks down the decision to a very straightforward yet extremely efficient form.  Many times management teams can get overly internally focused. By becoming your competition for a few minutes, all internal factors are removed. Now the resulting impact on the market of your impending decision is the clear and only focus.

This simple trick has helped me on several occasions and it does not matter what the subject. Recently, my team faced a decision on whether or not to introduce a new product at the end of the year. For the telecommunication’s industry this can be a very slow time. We had much debate on this topic. Some thought we should get the product released as soon as possible regardless of the timing. The opposing view was to wait until the first of the year when the industry climate would be better to enthusiastically embrace a new product introduction.

Well after much deliberation, we tried the “what would our competitor want us to do?” approach. And it only took us a few minutes to reach our decision. Everyone agreed that our competition would love to enjoy the additional time to not have to compete with our new and exciting product. So the right decision for us in this case became quickly very clear, do the opposite of what the competition would want us to do. So we made our decision and moved on.

So next time you are stuck making a difficult decision, make things easy on yourself, and let your competitor make the decision for you.