I’ve been reading The Xbox 360 Uncloaked by Dean Takahashi. Actually, I pretty much demolished it on a weekend trip up to Seattle. As the marketing material describes, Dean gets a really remarkable level of access to the Xbox team, and is able to put together the pieces in any area where he didn’t do a direct interview.
One quote by Robbie Bach (now the President of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices division, then Chief Xbox Officer) really struck me: “You discover that 90 percent of the decisions you make aren’t right or wrong. The most important thing is to make them. On about 10 percent of the decisions, those matter a lot and affect the outcome. The important principle was to get the decisions made.”
I think that’s so true. It’s been hammered home time and again how important it is to make decisions. I’ve seen countless frameworks for analyzing decisions, each of varying usefulness. It’s been about doing the most complete, thorough analysis in order to come to the right decision. Yet if 90% of those branches are going to (essentially) join back up again in the future – why bother? Take a peek down each pathway, lean on your experience and feeling, and then move. If you find that right was actually better than left – make a decision to move in that direction instead.
Of course, Bach seems to dodges the another important question – how do you know which decisions are important? How do you make sure that you get that 10% the appropriate level of thought? (and, hopefully, get them right!) The answer I think he’s hinting at is that there’s no way to tell – you can only discover that through hindsight. The key skill here is just an ability to make a decision.
Organizations and individuals become bogged down, or worse, completely paralyzed, because they believe that the decisions they’re making are all critical. If 90% won’t matter in the long run, you hope that you get enough of the 10% right to not completely screw yourself up. You also hope that the time you save by making the 90% of decisions in an efficient manner will give you time to fix any of the 10% you get wrong 🙂