Decide: We’ve Got it All Backwards

by Ron Potter

I’ve learned this concept from Chris McGoff. In his book, The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem, Chris lays out numerous frameworks on how teams work. One of the most powerful for me and many of my teams is understanding the meaning of the word “Decide.”

I’m not trying to be morbid here, but what do the following words have in common?: pesticide, homicide, suicide, genocide? They all end in “cide.” In Latin, the word means kill, killer, murderer, to cause death. One of my clients who was a Latin student said there was even an indication of public execution—to put to death publicly.

So, if we go back to our word decide, it doesn’t mean to figure out what to do, it means to figure out what to kill.

If leaders and teams would actually start killing off the options or directions they’ve decided not to pursue, a great amount of resources could be saved and redirected toward the chosen path.

When you must decide, figure out what you’re going to kill and publicly execute it.

Image Source: Brandon Doran

Image Source: Brandon Doran

All too often, we decide what we’re going to do and we muster the resources to pursue that option. But no one tells the many people down through the organization what to stop doing. And in fact, there’s lots of momentum in the life of the organization for people to continue doing what they’ve been doing over the last several months or years. If you don’t publicly execute that work, they’ll naturally continue to do it.

As I was working through this concept with one of my clients, one team member said, “But we’re really good at prioritizing our work.” And she was right. The organization was really good at knowing which issues should receive top priority and the most resources. But as we continued to pursue the concept, it became painfully obvious how many resources were being applied to extremely low priority items. In fact, by deciding to kill off those low priority items it was astounding how many resources would be freed up to concentrate on the things that really need to be accomplished.

When faced with a team or leadership decision, decide what to kill and then publicly execute it and you’ll be amazed at how many more resources you have available to pursue the path of success.

Why do we have such a hard time killing off projects, initiative, lines of work or almost anything that people have been dedicating their time to? I can think of several reasons but what’s your experience? Share with us.

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1 comment

Lessons from a Professional Organizer - Team Leadership Culture January 8, 2015 - 10:36 am

[…] the decision, no second guessing. This is exactly the issue I was getting at in an earlier blog, “Decide: we’ve got it all backwards.” In that post, we explored the word decide and learned that it didn’t mean figuring out what to […]


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