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Act on Some of the Facts

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

A leader must be patient enough to listen,/ wise enough to learn from mistakes and criticism, /courageous enough to admit errors and weaknesses/ and committed enough to change his mind or actions to get better results. – Michael Josephson

He was making decisions without having all the information and facts can be very tough. I spoke with a young man recently, and he told me that some of his professors had changed the rules on him in the administration of his classes. The syllabuses of a couple of his classes had been altered, which switched exam dates. He was also notified of these changes after the semester’s grace period. The grace period in which he could get his tuition money back after dropping a course had passed. Because of the changes, he would have two to three exams on one day.

I agreed that it was unfair for them to do and that he was not given all the facts to make a good decision. This young man had to decide to take the courses the way they had been altered or drop them, give up his tuition money, and delay another semester until graduation. It was interesting because I was about the same age as this young man when one of my undergraduate professors told me that you are not going to have 100% of the facts needed to decide in the real world. He told the class that we might have 50% of the points to determine if we were lucky. I had told this young man about what my marketing professor had said, and he thanked me for this piece of advice.

Months later, I thought about one of the most drastic decisions anyone has had to make in the 20th Century without having all the facts before him. Harry Truman became president of the United States in April 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt died. Roosevelt never informed Truman about the Manhattan Project. Suddenly, Truman had access to three atomic bombs and the authority to use them in World War II against the Japanese. And do you think that making some decisions can be challenging? Truman had the fate of history in his hands while pondering what to do.

The point is that Truman, like other decision-makers, was faced with minimal information and had to decide and follow through quickly. At some point in our lives, this happens to us all. But even if you do not choose to do something, your indecision is your decision. Not to decide is to decide.

So, how do you decide when you do not have all the facts? Follow this process:

1. Review the facts that you do have. Truman had access to three atomic bombs. Each bomb had enough power to destroy an entire city.

2. Analyze your facts. Truman saw the testing of one of the atomic bombs in the desert and was made more aware of the actual intensity of the bomb.

3. Analyze how your facts will affect your future decisions. Truman was given an estimate of the number of American soldiers that might perish in another major battle with Japan. Truman’s choice was that the atomic bomb could be used instead of attacking a Japanese city and would avoid excessive American casualties.

4. Act. Truman ordered the remaining two atomic bombs to be used against the Japanese on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both bombs in battle ended World War II quicker and avoided added American casualties.

Great decision-makers, like Truman, act when necessary and take full responsibility for their actions. Although the outcome may or may not have been what Truman had planned, a decision was made. If Truman did not decide, the war would have lingered, and more American lives would have been lost. Although the decision may not have been popular then, Truman knew it had to be made.

None of us have crystal balls and have access to future information and events. Truman was no different. Although we do not know the exact outcome of a decision, we can take conscious action and decide. If we do not decide, someone or something will decide for us. We decide by decision or indecision. Which one will you choose?

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