In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare makes clear that “our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” Over four hundred years later, these measured words are as relevant as ever. Must indecision continue to rule the centuries like some perverse King Henry loop?
The current refugee crisis gripping Europe offers life-and-death lessons about decisive action. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said this week that “political indecision among European Union member states may lead to more refugees drowning in the Mediterranean” and called for agreement and “responsibility-sharing.”
The business world rarely has so much at stake (though, to be sure, untold lives have perished due to mercenary decisions and cut corners), yet reckless overspending, massive layoffs and criminal conduct routinely hit the headlines. At the same time, nimble organizations that can decisively weather crises, adapt to changing circumstances and wear the non-stretchable fabric of integrity not only survive but thrive.
A willingness to invest in the future has shown throughout history to be a key link, not only to overcome very real problems, but to continue moving ahead. In 1929, on the cusp of the Great Depression, Marjorie Post’s Postum Company made a large acquisition, paying $22 million for 51% of Clarence Birdseye’s General Foods Company. The following few years were spent on stabilizing its business but then it quickly expanded, buying the rest of General Foods, the Sanka Coffee Corporation and others, all while its competitors generally retrenched. Those decisions resulted in countless jobs created and huge wealth generated.
The resulting company is today worth more than $50 billion. Yet while that is a positive number benefiting lives worldwide, lasting measures of success based on the pillars of methodical decision-making take myriad forms, from the community nonprofit that provides food and shelter to the orchestra that offers resonance and fulfillment.
Once all of the relevant facts are in place, indecision becomes a corrosive trait destined to rust and ruin. Is there a risk in most decisions? Of course. But add prudence and experience and they become educated risks. The calendar continues its relentless progression whether growth or stagnation mark the days.
Look outside, weigh the whether, and decide. More often than not, we control the forecast.