There are three managerial styles that discuss a subject over and over and just cannot close the debate and bite the bullet. They cannot complete the final step in making a decision, that is, taking the decision.
Type (A) type (I) and type (E).
Type (A), the bureaucratic style, works from a starting point of fear, fear of making a mistake. Fear of taking risk. This type wants to be perfectly certain before making any motion toward change. So, they will ask for more and more information. This is not too difficult to do because any information they get yields a need for new information. It can be endless if one is inclined to make it so.
Type (I) has a different fear. A fear of being rejected, that people will be unhappy with them, that they will be criticized. Type (I) wants harmony. Agreement. Consensus. An (I) will go around and around discussing the decision until a working consensus develops or defer the decision to a subcommittee to “study” the subject, expecting them to produce a consensus.
Type (E), the Arsonist, decides with fervor, conviction, and apparent commitment. They are enthusiastic and passionate, so it appears they have made a decision, finalized it. But wait a few hours, or a few days. They change their mind easily, often, and with conviction that they are right even though the different decisions they have taken are often in conflict with each other.
Arsonists are rarely right but never in doubt. They might say, “It is too late for you to disagree with me, I already changed my mind.” Working with them is like chasing a drop of mercury. They do not take a stand. They continuously change their mind. So, people wonder: was it decided or is it still in the process of being decided? Should we act or wait? If they act, they might be accused of doing the wrong thing because the Arsonist in the meantime changed his mind. If they do not act, they are accused of lack of loyalty.
What is to be done?
This is where a complementary team is necessary. The (P) style will push to finalize, to get a decision, even if it is the wrong one. Just to get going. So, listen to the (P), but do not necessarily follow their recommendation, unless it makes sense to you. As the leader, accumulate information from the (A) (E) and (I), and let the (P) make sense of it all to you. They usually perceive ahead of everyone else what needs to be done. They cut through the nonsense to get to the point and action need.
Is there another situation where decisions cannot be finalized?
Yes. Some discussions are cul-de-sac discussions. The group repeats the same material again and again, and nothing new is learned. There is no convergence, no decision can be made or even finalized. It can happen for many reasons, among them conflicts of interest and big egos.
In this case, as a leader, it is your role to take a stand. Take on the (P) role even if you are not naturally of the (P) style. Announce your decision but be open to changing it if it turns out not to work. When announcing the decision, announce at the same time the date when the decision will be reviewed. Since everyone knows the decision is not set in stone but open for review, because of your openness, those opposed to the decision usually go along, at least for the time being. Be careful though. The time you give yourself to review your decision must be sufficient to check if it really works.
You might, however, find that the disagreement over your temporary conclusion to buy time is not working. This means that it is time to do dialectic convergence and get to the roots of the conflict. To do that, however, calls for in-depth training.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
1Please read Ichak Adizes: Management/Mismanagement Styles (available from The Adizes Institute Bookstore or Amazon)