Good Decision, Bad Outcome

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Demos, skmurphy

You never have complete information, if you do it’s a choice not a decision.

You have to evaluate a decision in the context of the information that was available at the time.

“Good Decision, Bad Outcome”

When I first heard someone use this phrase it took a few weeks to sink in.

Too often we infer the quality of the decision from the results alone. This can lead entrepreneurs in time periods like 1997-2000 and 2004-2007 to think they are better at making decisions than they are and to doubt themselves too much in a downturn.

A course of action or a new initiative is often not just a single decision, but a collection of interacting decisions.

Together these decisions are like the combination to a lock, if any one of them is wrong then the initiative fails or fall far short of the outcomes you were hoping for. If it’s all possible to decompose your plan into separate, individually testable decisions you can learn faster and achieve better outcomes.

Developing a new process capability can be like learning to play a new piece on the piano.  It can be useful to start at the beginning of different passages, otherwise you get very good at the first section, where you are getting the most practice, and your performance deteriorates as you finish the piece.

Something similar can happen in the sales process where a team gets very good at giving a demo and does not practice how to close the deal or secure a reference.

When we are helping  a client rehearse a presentation we always prepare backup slides for the “How do we get started?” question.  One had gotten so good at accepting a lack of interest at the end of a demo that when the client said “this is great, let’s get started!” there was a long silence until one their engineers blurted out “Wow! No one has ever said that before!”

Up until then it had seemed like a waste of time to prepare an engagement plan and to think through all of the details for a potential capability rollout. Now they lost the sale because, while the prospect respected the engineer’s honesty, they were not comfortable proceeding into unknown territory for both sides.

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