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Resist the push to make bad decisions

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers

decision signMomentum can take on a life all its own. As you near a deadline to close a sale, negotiate a deal or make a big decision, the inexorable push to complete it can undermine your better judgment.

Leadership expert Steve Wood calls this “transaction momentum.” As forces combine to create an environment ripe for a deal, it’s easy to ignore last-minute red flags to call it off.

The day before the Space Shuttle Challenger took off in 1986, a Morton Thiokol official warned NASA that the temperature at the Florida site the night before the fateful launch was expected to fall below 32 degrees. Morton Thiokol, maker of the O-rings that ultimately failed and caused the disaster, had never tested the O-rings at below-freezing temps.

But NASA’s leadership imposed a “prove something would fail” standard to justify halting a launch. There was no way to prove an unknown, so the tragedy unfolded the next day.

Wood recalls an instance of “transaction momentum” that hit closer to home: He ignored warning signs and proceeded with a business deal that proved a ­debacle.

Today, Wood applies a “pre-mortem” analysis that he learned from Gary Klein, author of Seeing What Others Don’t. It involves two steps:

  1. Imagine you’ve just made your decision or past your deadline—and the decision proved terrible or the project failed. Write all the reasons why you think things went sour.
  2. Write what actions you would have taken to ensure the project was a success.

Through this process, you and your team can root out causes of potential disasters and take measures to prevent costly, adverse outcomes.

— Adapted from “Leaders Should Do Pre-Mortems Not Post-Mortems,” Steve Wood, www.steveonleadership.com.

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