Friday, June 2, 2017

Is gut-level the best way to make a decision?

I’ve been privileged to operate in the world of organizational leadership for over twenty years now.  Some days I feel old, but whether I feel old or just seasoned, the reality is that I’ve seen a lot of leadership decisions made and executed. Some have been brilliant. Some have been disasters.
Over all those years and through all those decisions, I’ve seen a common theme.  Most of the brilliant decisions were backed up by data and most of the disasters have been gut-level decisions. I’ve sat around many tables and heard phrases like, “my gut tells me we ought to do this” or “I’m just feeling led to go here”.  Look, I’m not discounting God’s voice speaking to a man or woman in leadership.  It happens and needs to be heeded. But don’t we just get lazy sometimes and just want to make the decision without doing the work it requires?
About ten years ago I was serving at a church that was out of space.  We were full and knew we needed to expand.  We all sat around the table and talked about the scope of the facility expansion project we wanted to undertake.  In our gut, we all agreed that we could probably take on a project in the neighborhood of $3M.  Thankfully, there was a voice of reason in the group who said we ought to hire a consulting firm to vet our ideas with hard questions and crunch some real numbers for us. We did.  And after the conversations were had and the numbers were crunched, we were disappointed to find out that our church could probably handle a project no larger than $1.1M.  Wow, our gut would have led us into a $2M mistake.  Do you know what a $2M mistake does to a church that size?  It kills it.  I’m so thankful we made a decision based on data, not our gut feelings.
If the decision is what to order at a restaurant, go with your gut.  No big deal.  But, when you're making real decisions that have real implications for you and those who depend on you, remember this.  Decisions made with real data are almost always better decisions.

If you know some leaders who are gut-level decision makers, share this with them and challenge their method. You’ll be doing them a favor.  And if you're that gut-level decision maker, don't dismiss this quickly.  Perspective before planning brings success.  The truth is your friend.

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