When Settling for Mediocrity is a Relief

… But alas, only bad options are in front of you. When working with clients, I often get asked “what should I do?” It’s understandable that a client would ask me that question, after all that’s part of the reason they are working with Morrison – they want assistance in making good decisions. However, I’m not the magic fairy consultant, and I don’t have magic fairy dust to sprinkle over all problems and make them perfect – I wish I did, it would be a great business model. What I can do however, is help clients evaluate their options, weigh the pros and cons, and express a preference for one option over the others. And that process is all fine and good, but what happens when there are no good options?

This past week I was working with a client, and they were wrestling with a personnel issue. There were clearly only two options, and both were bad, and by “bad” I don’t mean less than perfect or not preferable – I mean BAD…and we had to make a decision in the very near future.

So how do you go about making a decision when there are no good options? First, acknowledge that the initial options before you are unfortunate. Each is deeply flawed in one way or another and choosing one over the other could backfire later down the road. Second, look for additional options that haven’t been considered. I see this happen frequently as an excuse to “punt” or delay making a decision rather than really exploring for new alternatives – don’t use this step in that way. If you can find other options, good, throw them in the mix; if you can’t, move on to the next step. Don’t wallow in the valley of indecision.

Next, pragmatically lay out the pros and cons of each option. When there are no good options, the “con” list will be longer than the “pro” list – go through this process anyway. Now you can weigh the options, if you need advisors get them to weigh in on the options as well. If you have only bad options, it might be helpful to view them through the lens of which is worse rather than which is better. Lastly, make a decision. If you’re in a group, this will be tough because no one is going to want to be the first person to nominate a bad option. If this is your situation, verbally preface the decision by making it clear to the group that 1) all these options are bad, 2) we have to make a decision, 3) we all acknowledge now that this could backfire on us later, but 4) we did the best we could at the time with the information we had.

If, after the decision has been made, things do in fact backfire – don’t go back and second guess your decision or throw stones at others involved in that decision. It’ll only make it worse. Instead, use it as an opportunity to evaluate the process that lead up to the “there-are-no-good-options-decision.” Was there an event that foreshadowed future bumps in the road? Was there a way to mitigate the impact should better planning been conducted? Focus on those questions, and hopefully you won’t find yourself in a position where there are no good options. Nothing like a Gandhi quote to keep us on track, so I’ll conclude with this line of his: “Your past is done, so forget it. Your future is yet to come, so dream it. But your present is now, so live it with no regrets.”

About the Author
Geoff Chinnock is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Business & Accounting Advisory practice. To get in touch with Geoff, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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