Trying to Decide…

I am one of the most decisive people I know. I know immediately how I feel about almost any question. It’s a weird quality and it comes from a mix of gut reaction and a quick but careful weighing of the odds. But there are few decisions I regret, even if the outcome isn’t what I hoped for because I know that I considered the odds as well as I could. And because I make many decisions at work, I am pretty easy going about decisions in my personal life. I don’t care what restaurant I meet friends at or what movie my family watches.

What was most interesting to me about this exercise was thinking through my own decision making process. Here’s a recent decision I made that followed a process similar to what is outlined in the prompt:

Goal: To start an annual poetry day beginning with Naomi Shihab Nye, the Palestinian-American poet. Include a mix of poetry writing with elementary kids as well as a contemplative event focused on reclaiming language.

Possible choices: This opportunity came up in July and we were working to include Franklin and Marshall, a local college that we often partner with, as well as a local prep. school. October worked as a date for all of us, but it was there enough time for us to properly plan and market a series of events?

  1. We could wing it and hope for the best. While this sounds unwise, we have a mailing list of more than 17,000 people, an eblast list of more than 4,000, and a pretty good publicity machine. With F&M and the prep school on board, our potential audience grew significantly. But there was real cost to bringing her and we needed to do a lot of planning in a short amount of time.

2. We could keep it simple and just do an evening event. We do these events regularly and have hosted Anne Lamott, Krista Tippet, Father Boyle, Rachel Held Evans to name a few, here at the PRC. We typically have them speak at a big evening event and then take lots of time for questions and answers. Calibrating their speaking fee with the number of tickets I think we can sell is a pretty careful formula.

3. We could wait until October 2020 to do a two-day event that incorporates all of the elements we want to include and give us multiple events which allows to spread the cost/risk. It would also give us more time to promote the event and include additional partners like local public school districts. It would mean that staff and I were less stressed as well.

My normal instinct is to charge ahead with a project like this. Waiting, when we have partners lined up, when we have exciting ideas, can frustrate me. But we decided to wait. This is one of the few decisions I’ve made recently that I question. But I’m also relieved that we didn’t try to cram this into an already packed fall. We will bring Naomi next year, I hope.

RS: Thanks, everyone, for your comments! It’s always so helpful to hear from everyone and reconsider my assumptions in the first post. While October was the original date, April, which is national poetry month, could also work. It might be a little tricky with school ending but doable.

I should have said that while I’m very decisive, I think team work is really important and whenever I can, I work to make decisions as a team. I always assume that my co-workers have a different and often better solution than I do. But sometimes someone has to decide and if that’s me, I know that I can quickly. I see a lot of bookkeeping clients agonize over a decision that often only gets harder the longer they wait.

7 thoughts on “Trying to Decide…”

  1. Kate,

    I can relate to your personal decision-making process. I also don’t usually care about decisions that are inconsequential. There are so many other decisions to make, that I don’t usually waste emotional energy with those that can be made by others.

    Regarding your options, what is the best-case scenario for each option? What is the worst-case scenario? What is your break-even point? What are the pros and cons of each option? What did you gain by waiting? What did you lose?

    What will you have to do to bring Naomi next year? What decisions can you make now to make it easier?

    Thank you for sharing this decision with us!

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  2. What an amazing event to plan for, Kate! Was October a good mutual date because the opportunity came up in July and that was seen as the best date for 2019, or was it identified as the best time of year for all hosts? When will you all start the planning for 2020? Are there ways to curb the frustration from waiting that could link back to how/when you program the event?

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    1. Great questions! Yes, October is easier than April when the school year is wrapping up and since we work 9-12 months ahead, we need to start planning now :). I like your question about curbing the frustration, too. Definitely something to consider!

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  3. Cool! Sounds like a lot of fun! Regarding the option: Any reason both the dates you suggested are October? Would you consider a date in the spring?

    I envy your ability to make quick decisions! I consider myself not a quick decision-maker, more of a maximizer. I almost always come down on a decision I feel good about. That’s usually after a fairly drawn-out and thorough process of thinking, writing, talking, more thinking, and some gut feeling.

    What enables you to make quick decisions? I assume about people who make quick decisions that they know themselves and their org well, that their values are clear so decisions become clear. Does that ring true for you? Have you found any success at helping others make decisions in a way that’s clear and confident as your process?

    Another trait I’ve seen about people who make quick decisions is they sometimes exclude other from that process. How do you make sure even as you have a clear sense of what decision to make you keep your work colleagues involved in the process?

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  4. Kate, that was the most delightful list of individuals to casually drop into this post! I want to come to your events! I can relate to being extremely decisive, although I find that decisions about whether and where to move geographically have proved to be my one Achilles heel. Anyways, this comment is mostly just to reiterate that I think you’re pretty cool and I hope we can get coffee next time I’m in Lancaster.

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    1. Thanks, Jessica! We definitely need to meet in person when you’re in Lancaster! So glad we got to meet through this cohort!

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