Agile Decision Making (how do I know if and when to trust my gut?)

Agility Consulting |

By Mike Richardson, Team Agility Practice Leader 18025216_l-resized I often get asked that question, “when making a tough business decision, how do I know if and when to trust my gut?”  To which my answer is, “wrong question, it’s not if and when you should trust your gut, it’s only how”.  Let me explain. Your future pivots on your decisions in the present – a transaction-flow of decisions (any business essentially comes down to that and can be thought of that way, as a transaction flow of decisions).  Transacted well and you choose you future; not so well and your future chooses you, which is typically not pretty!  You enhance your decision-transactions with the quality of your thinking, questions and actions which surround those decisions.  Together, thoughts, questions, decisions and actions compound into your “conversation-flow”:
  • Conversation-Flow: how you link and accumulate thoughts, questions, decisions and actions into an unfolding flow, necessarily divergent and convergent, present-forwards and future-backwards, enterprise-wide and enterprise-deep, all at the same time.  Read more:  C2C (Conversation-Flow to Cash-Flow)
Where your conversation-flow goes your cash-flow will follow!  Conversation is a leading indicator of cash.  Where the trajectory of conversation-flow goes, your trajectory of cash-flow will follow, it’s just a matter of time.  You show me an enterprise with poor cash-flow in the present and I will show you an enterprise with poor conversation-flow in the past, which is what brought them here.    Just look at any of the big corporate failures in recent times – a failure of past conversation-flow showing up in present cash-flow.  To pivot your trajectory of cash-flow in the future you have to pivot your trajectory of conversation-flow in the present.  Conversation becomes cash! Your pivotal challenge these days is that your conversation-flow has to be increasingly agile.  We live in a world of accelerating VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) which is increasingly time-compressed (participate in The VUCA Report at  In a VUCA world agility is king!  Cash is no longer king – agility is and cash is just a way of keeping score!  Lean is no longer king – Agile is the new Lean – and it’s well on the way to being as huge.  Read more:  Agility is King! (AGILE is the new LEAN!) What is agility?  Agility is commonly misunderstood and a mental trap which many fall into.  When I speak to peer groups of CEOs and Senior Executives all over the world, I ask them, “what is the opposite of agility?” and most often the answer I get back is “rigidity”, or something similar.  But holding in mind “agility” and “rigidity” as opposites is a mental trap:
  • You see, “rigidity” means very structured, tightly organized, ordered, controlled and hands-on, we might even say bureaucratic!  We imagine decision making as typically very analytical/fact-based, process-driven and centralized/by committee.  
  • So, as the opposite of rigidity, “agility” must therefore mean very unstructured, loosely organized, disorderly chaos, uncontrolled and hands-off, right?  We might even say seat-of-the-pants!  We imagine decision making as very gut/intuition/feeling-based and ad-hoc.  
  • But, unconsciously, we have lapsed into the mental-trap of “or” thinking.  Holding in mind these opposites as mutually exclusive, one or the other.  Wrong.  Agility is not an “or” it is an “and” proposition of both, called “finding the agile middle”.   Read more:  3 Dimensions & 3 Core-Concepts
Pivoting to an Agile Mindset.  Which brings us to the question of if and when to trust your gut in decision-making?  Always!  Decision-making is never a question of analytical/fact-based “or”gut/intuition/feeling-based.  In an increasingly VUCA world, agile-decision-making is always an “and” of both, finding-the-agile-middle.  It’s not a question of “if and when” you should trust your gut, it’s only a question of “how”.  The key is to pivot to an agile-mindset:
  • Agile thinkers understand that the best way to learn is by doing – so they trust their gut-feeling-based intuition but know they need to test it by launching early and iterating often with a series of small experiments – to gather fact-based feedback from real-people experiencing real deliverables.
  • Agile leaders therefore understand that they need to be willing to learn from failure, making it safe to fail small, early and often – knowing before long that they will emerge into success.
  • Agile teams therefore understand the difference between smart failure and dumb failure and their bottom line measure of progress is learning – new learning from smart failure not repeated learning from dumb failure.
  • Read more:  Waterfall vs Agile/Sprints/Scrum – Pivoting to the future of Agile-Teamwork
Pivot to an agile mindset of gut-feeling-based “and” fact-based decision making to drive a trajectory of conversation-flow which your cash-flow can follow.    

Originally posted at

Mike Richardson

MikeRichardsonTeam Agility Practice Leader

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