Dear Aunty B,
I own a consumer product manufacturing business and for the past 12 months my team and I have been discussing the feasibility of one of our product lines. Its sales are not as high as we had originally hoped.
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We’ve spent countless hours discussing the issue and my sales and marketing team have produced detailed reports that suggest it may not be worth continuing the product line this year.
I am finding it incredibly difficult to make this decision. What if we have misjudged the market and the products we invest in instead don’t perform?
At the same time, I don’t want to spend another 12 months going over and over the same issue. How do you make tough decisions?
New South Wales
Regular readers of this column will know I’m not one to shy away from making decisions; deciding what kind of gin I’ll have is my favourite part of the day.
But in business, some calls are harder to make then others.
To help with your dilemma, I recommend reading this blog post by Peter Bregman. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Bregman shares three tips for making decisions.
The first is forming habits, which is great for routine decisions with predictable outcomes (i.e. my choice of gin).
The second is using “if/then” thinking to help with those routine but unpredictable decisions. If this keeps happening, I will do this …
But for the more challenging choices, like yours, Bregman recommends using a timer. That is, set a time by which you have to make the call.
“If the issues on the table have been reasonably vetted, the choices are equally attractive, and there is still no clear answer, then admit that there is no clearly identifiable right way to go and just decide,” he says.
Phil, in your case, it seems the evidence is pointing you in the direction of letting go of this product line. Review your team’s research once more and set a date by which you will make the decision.