When your choice isn't clear, you need a method to find the best option. Source: Unsplash/Victoriano Izquierdo

Harvard Business Review

Navigating grey areas: Five questions that will help you make the right decision

Harvard Business Review
11 minute Read

Every manager makes tough calls — it comes with the job. And the toughest calls come in the grey areas — situations where you and your team have worked hard to gather the facts and done the best analysis you can, but you still don’t know what to do. It’s easy to become paralysed in the face of such challenges. Yet as a leader, you have to make a decision and move forward. Your judgement becomes critical.

Judgement is hard to define. It is a fusion of your thinking, feelings, experience, imagination, and character. But five practical questions can improve your odds of making sound judgements, even when the data is incomplete or unclear, opinions are divided, and the answers are far from obvious.

Where do these questions come from? Over many centuries and across many cultures, they have emerged as men and women with serious responsibilities have struggled with difficult problems. They express the insights of the most penetrating minds and compassionate spirits of human history. I have relied on them for years, in teaching MBA candidates and counseling executives, and I believe that they can help you, your team, and your organisation navigate the grey-est of grey areas.

This article explains the five questions and illustrates them with a disguised case study involving a manager who must decide what to do about a persistently underperforming employee who has failed to respond to suggestions for improvement. He deserves a bad review, if not dismissal, but higher-ups at the company want to overlook his failings.

Become a SmartCompany Plus subscriber to keep reading

Get your first 30 days FREE
Subscribe now
Already a Plus member?