Your Short-term Decision Making is Good for Business

Forget what the haters tell you. If you make short-term business decisions, then it’s very very good for business…

… just not yours!

I work as a consultant/freelancer on a day rate. The more unnecessary work there is to do in the projects I work on, the better off I get.

Bizarrely, if I take the approach of counselling my clients on using my efforts more efficiently, I still get paid the same… and maybe the extra time saved will get put to more value-added features for the business.

The latter is a win for everyone.

Be an Owner

One of the Amazon Leadership Principles revolves around treating the work environment as an owner. Decisions have a long-term effect, whether you decide to make knee jerk convenient decisions, or long-term strategic decisions. They still have a long-term effect either way.

This means two things:

  • That crappy workaround that was convenient at the time may end up costing more than the time saving
  • That great big idea you had as a grand universal theory of everything may only be used for something trivial

The trick here is to break out of small thinking and break out of ridiculous big thinking too.

Incremental All The Way

Not withstanding some huge pieces of strategy, the best way to avoid over or under commitment is by working out how to have continuous incremental improvement. This may lead to techniques like Fix it Twice, where we solve a problem the cheapest way possible as a first salvo, and then return to it pretty much straight away to find the real root cause and make the problem go away.

It relies on prioritisation and feedback loops too.

There’s an Old Joke…

A car stops in a place where people are renowned for being a bit daft <insert your own choice of place>. The driver flags down a local – “Excuse me sir, can you tell me the way to the town hall.”. The local thinks a moment and then replies – “The Town Hall? If I were you, I would go there from here.”

From this we learn that racist stereotypes of other nations are unnecessary in jokes.

We also learn that our destination may not be easily reached from here, but it must be. The best directions the man could give in the above is to say – “Go down the road a bit, find the pub, and ask there”.

A few steps in the right direction can change the problem, either way.

Sounds a Bit Haphazard

It’s easy to use incremental development as an excuse to make a huge mess, starting all sorts of narrow minded half-formed ideas.

However, if you also view this from the perspective of an owner with a long-term vision, and if you take steps that are smaller, but in the right sort of direction, then you can avoid the cost of big missteps.

Similarly, if you keep things clean as you go, rather than allow entropy to take hold, things loosen up and you’re able to pivot more easily.


There’s no point in gambling too much on a future that may never happen. If you take shortcuts and you’re wrong, then you’ll spend the same money or more fixing them. If you take a big punt on a grand design, then I’ll happily build it for you, but it won’t be me that looks daft if it’s unnecessary.

Incremental and strategic thinking need to go hand in hand.

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