Captain, You’re Wrong!

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With limited time and bandwidth, leading a large global development team on a large complex project requires rapid decision-making on difficult problems.

Some years ago my team found the cost of delay on a wrong decision corrected later was generally far lower than the delay of holding out to be sure of the right one.

Many times I had to look at what little information we had and either make (or support the team in making) an arbitrary judgement call.

The reason this approach worked for us was that we were all willing to step up as soon as we knew were wrong (usually in light of new, previously unknown information) and call each other out. In fact I took it as a matter of personal pride that I could be wrong so often and yet my team could still outperform those around us.  In that team it was socially acceptable to be fallible and we encouraged less-experienced staff to challenge their more experienced counterparts.

The phrase “Captain, you’re wrong” is still music to my ears. It usually meant someone on the team was right!

Try this: When you’re stuck making a decision, choose the one that seems least wrong. You’re an experienced professional, sometimes your instinct will be all you have left to work with. Make it clear to your teams that if they find a decision isn’t working for them they can revisit it – as long as we get on with it now with no debating.