Leadership & Procrastination: The cost of doing it later…


How do you make decisions?

How do you gather the information you need?

How long do you wait for that information?

How much time do you have to make the decision?

What happens if you DON’T decide?

 A business owner’s day is filled with decisions. What resources that will need to be allocated? What’s the impact of moving or hiring staff? Should you buy more inventory now? Sometimes decisions get delayed. They may be delayed because the information isn’t available. They may be delayed because there is still time to decide.

 But, sometimes you’re just not ready. You feel that delay is good. Maybe you’re risk-averse.  You’re concerned about the bad consequences – and want to avoid negative results. But when does delay become the decision itself? Actually, not making a decision IS a decision. You come to a crossroads, and you decide not to turn right. You decide not to turn left. That’s a decision. You’ve decided to stand in the middle of the intersection.

In business, inaction has a cost, just as actions have a cost. The cost of an action is the value of resources deployed. But inaction has a cost as well. And if inaction is actually procrastination, the true cost might be how you are viewed by your peers or subordinates. That might exact a greater cost than the loss of business, or higher expenses due to delayed implementation. 

Certainly, no decision is made in a vacuum.  Before you decide to act or not to act, you have had discussions with your managers, your significant other, your staff, your friends.  They have taken the time to think about what you’ve asked them. Your staff is likely going one step farther. Knowing that when you decide, they will have to act and act quickly, they have already started to prepare for that eventuality.  They have taken the time to plan for what they will have to do if you decide to go right or go left.  

Your not making a decision, therefore, leaves them in limbo as well.  It means that their efforts, even the time they spent thinking of how to support your decision, were wasted.  How many times can you leave your staff in limbo before that begins to affect the way they work, and the way they respond to your suggestions or decisions? 

Leadership discussions revolve around decisiveness, pragmatism, making tough decisions. But they don’t respect procrastination, because that isn’t a sign of leadership, it’s considered a sign of inadequacy – the inability to decide is considered a defect.

Is a decision delayed because of procrastination or the search for Perfect Information? Be honest with yourself. What is the cost in time and dollars of obtaining Perfect Information? The world is always in motion, so there are consequences for delay. The business world keeps moving on. It’s not waiting for you.

Deciding later has a cost. Your cost could be the loss of business to a competitor. Delay in hiring a candidate might result in their being hired by someone else. Not putting a deposit on that building, results in someone else getting the lease. You’re not sure if that merger candidate is right, till someone else buys the business. 

There is a cost to every decision and every delay. The question you need to ask yourself is whether your decision to delay is a wise leadership choice, or procrastination?