Avoiding Decision Stall: Debate vs. GO


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Decision Stall

Many companies that I talk to have issues with effective decision making — They want to make better decisions. They want to make them faster. And they want them to stick.

While leaders often need to make decisions with incomplete data, one of the common issues I see is that decisions are made without learning all the data that IS knowable, and without enough support of the team.

Then the decisions are questioned, stalled, made over — and then questioned, and made over and over again.

The technique I use to avoid this decision stall is called Debate vs. Go.

This implies that there are two necessary and separate phases. The DEBATE phase and the GO phase.

The need for Debate

Many executives avoid opening up an issue for debate because they just want to be able to say, “Make it so,” and have their team execute.

They fear that if they open up a conversation, that it might raise conflict, doubt, disagreement and dissent.
And they see these things as a challenge to their authority, or a waste of time.

This is a shame.

Because in this type of environment, people who know important things won’t always speak up when they should, because they feel like their input is not welcome.

So important information that the leader really needs to know remains hidden, and people also feel dis-empowered. So both the decision and its execution are compromised.

Conflict improves decisions

But in reality, healthy debate and conflict is useful, as it yields the important information necessary to make a good decision.

When people are arguing, you get the deepest and richest understanding of an issue.

If the leader is unwilling to allow this open, rigorous conversation to happen, they are missing critical information about the issue.

The Debate Phase

By naming and creating a DEBATE phase, people feel like their inputs are welcome — and that they have permission, and won’t be punished for speaking up.

So at the end of debate phase, not only is everyone smarter, but also, everyone has had a chance to personally process the issue.

The debate itself gives everyone time to tune their belief systems to get ready to go, and they are more likely to be motivated since their opinions were considered.

Without the debate phase, you will not make the most informed decision, and your team will not be as ready or motivated to move forward.

The inability to progress

The other big issue that happens if you skip debate phase is that you don’t have a mechanism for ending the debate phase!

Management teams waste huge amounts of time by revisiting decisions over and over again, questioning the direction and circling back for more data.

The leaders might think they have made a decision, but the organization is reluctant to engage because you’re still talking about it!

Everyone perceives the continued discussion to mean that the issue is still in question, and well… open for debate.

So people wait for the final answer instead of moving forward. And they continue to add to the conversation, raising even more issues and questions. Decisions remain unmade.

The Transition to GO

One of the beautiful things about having a formal debate phase is that you can end it.

I make it clear that for every initiative or decision, there is DEBATE time and there is GO time.

1. Debate Time: Talking, Questions, Input, Arguments are welcome.

During debate time, I make it clear that I want to hear people’s opinions. I want to hear the arguments. I want everyone to fight for their point of view.

2. Make a Clear Decision

After debate time is over, I make it clear who owns the decision, and make sure the decision gets made.

3. Initiate GO Time

Go Time

Then I make it clear that we are in GO time. The decision is communicated and the action is officially kicked off. This is the time to engage in the work, not in the debate. The debate phase is over.

By setting this structure, you can make it clear that during debate time, the expected and valued behavior is to speak up.

Then once you announce the decision and make it clear that it’s GO time, people know that the expected and valued behavior is action, not more talking.

I talk more about Debate vs. GO and other ways to improve decision making in Chapter 21 of my book MOVE: Decision Stall. And the next chapter is how to identify and recover from setbacks.

You can get your copy of MOVE or download a preview:

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About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

A big thank you — to YOU!


I want to thank everyone who helped make the launch of MOVE such a huge success!
I also wanted to stop for a moment to fully appreciate this truly extraordinary experience for which I am enormously grateful, by sharing this short photo/video diary.

In Italian I would say, “Sono grata” which is what Italians say to express a joy of your whole self and a deep gratitude that comes from the heart.

MOVE Launch in New York City

I had the incredible opportunity, thanks to my publisher Wiley, and Barnes and Noble in NYC, to have MOVE featured in the storefront of Barnes & Noble facing 5th avenue for 2 weeks!

Speaking of things for which I am grateful, my long time friend and mentor Al Fasola not only flew in to join the party, but directed a photo shoot on 5th avenue, with the talented Julia Blaukopf.

Patty and Al (click to enlarge)
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Barnes & Noble NYC, 5th Ave and 46th Street!

It was a bit surreal frankly, to be featured in a store front on 5th avenue in NY!

I’m really excited about what I got to share in MOVE to help business leaders create bigger success and feel more sane along the way. I talked about this in a live Facebook Broadcast right out on the street. Thank you for all who tuned in and stopped by…and the crowd that spontaneously formed!

And a shout out to my big sister Kerry, who served as the camera man. Nice work!

VIDEO: Watch this video shot live from the very cold store front of B&N

MOVE at 5th ave and 46th street! (click to enlarge)
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Inside the store…

The Barnes & Noble staff were fantastic giving MOVE great featured in-store positioning throughout the store.
There are a few signed copies left at the 46th street location!

Having a laugh with Al while signing books (click to enlarge)
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MOVE Launch Party NYC!

Then came the NY Launch Party at Estancia 460 in Tribeca. Many thanks to Katie, and the staff. It is a truly wonderful venue with incredible food and wine.

There were people there from literally every decade of my life, including my 4th grade grammar school teacher and grammar school music teacher, and my friend Wendy who I have known since I was 4 years old! There were friends from high school and college, work friends and colleagues, and members of Azzarello Group who I had the chance to meet in person for the first time!

NY MOVE Launch Party (click to enlarge)
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More NY MOVE Launch Party (click to enlarge)
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Launch Party in CA

The launch continued in California at Kingfish in San Mateo.

David Spark of Spark Media Solutions and a long time friend created this fun video: “What’s the best advice you ever got from Patty Azzarello”? There are some great bits of wisdome in here! Thank you everyone for playing along, and for the kind words.

VIDEO: Check out these bits of wisdom from leaders already getting benefits from MOVE

Video by: David Spark, Spark Media Solutions

Long time friends and colleagues came out to help celebrate and again, I had a chance to meet members of Azzarello Group in person for the first time and get to learn about their experiences and breakthroughs that came applying my work. That’s why I do this! It was really wonderful to meet everybody.

New and old friends helped to celebrate (click to enlarge)
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Clients, members and friends came out in force! (click to enlarge)
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Eat, drink and be Merry! … (click to enlarge)
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#DecisiveLeadersMOVE

It would seem that we have created a MOVE-ment. People from all over the world are posting selfies with the #DecisiveLeadersMOVE hash tag. Again, I am very grateful. And you can still join the MOVE-ment! I’d love to see you photos with MOVE!

MOVE Selfies… #DecisiveLeadersMOVE in New York!! (click to enlarge)
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MOVE Selfies… #DecisiveLeadersMOVE worldwide! (click to enlarge)
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THANK YOU!!

So again, a deep heartfelt thank you to everyone for the huge outpouring of support for MOVE.
We hit 100 reviews on Amazon in the first month. The people at Wiley, and the people at Amazon were amazed.

–Sono grata.

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What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Metrics that Drive Action & Results



This month’s Professional Development webinar was on the topic of Metrics that Drive Action & Results.

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Get the webinar

If you missed it you can download the recording.

Members of my professional development program can download this webinar for free.

This is a very useful webinar to download if you are managing any type of project or program and:

  • You need to see more urgency
  • Your are not sure if your strategy is good enough
  • If there is a gap between what you are measuring and the results you are seeing
  • You need measures that will motivate the right behaviors in your team
  • Want practical tools for managing project timelines more decisively
  • Need to keep your team motivated and focused on the right things

Here is what we talked about:

How to test your strategy

In this webinar I covered the most common mistake that organization make with regard to strategy.

If your strategy is not concrete enough to be measurable, you will never be able to create good metrics and ensure execution.

I talked about how to test your strategy for concreteness, and make sure that you refine it to be measurable in a practical way that drives action.

The right metrics are critical to forward progress

Organizations often measure things that are easy to measure instead of measuring things that will get them the outcome that they want.

For example “number of bugs fixed” is a measure of a detail that is easy to measure, where “% of happy customers who are willing to repurchase or recommend,” while harder to measure is a much more valuable measure.

In the webinar, we talked about the difference between measuring details, or steps in the process and measuring the actual outcome you need.

While outcomes are harder to measure, putting the effort in gives you the right result. You are measuring what you want to see.

We talked about how to change bad (detail measures) into good (control point) measures.

Timelines and Urgency

Many leaders lament that they do not see enough urgency in their organizations.

If you want to see more urgency, schedule it!

In this webinar I share how to structure timeline as both an operational and communication tool to create the urgency and progress that you need to see.

Working backwards from the outcome

Whenever there is a new long term initiative, it suffers from the fact that it will take a long time to do.

Humans are not great at staying focused for the long term. New initiatives often die shortly after the exciting kickoff, when the hard work needs to be done.

Also when your organization thinks you have a year to get something done, the thing does not feel urgent in the first weeks and months.

The problem with this way of thinking is that when people think they have year to do something, they don’t start. They work on more urgent stuff in the moment.

Each week, each month, people feel like they have plenty of time to get to the long term thing.

The problem with this way of working is that you end up at the 10 month point with 12 months of work still to do.

In the webinar I showed how working backwards from the endpoint will result in a much more concrete action plan that will create urgency and keep people focused on executing the longer term, strategic projects, even when short term pressures arise.

The webinar:

I put together this webinar to give leaders ideas and specific techniques for creating metrics and timelines that drive action — Metrics that create the necessary behaviors to implement long term initiatives, instead of letting them die after the exciting kickoff.

The webinar covered how to drive momentum, urgency and progress.

From this webinar you will learn:

  • The difference between good measures and bad measures
  • Outcome oriented thinking and metrics
  • The important difference between details and control points
  • How to keep your team focused and motivated for a long time

This webinar is loaded with valuable resources

This webinar will give you many ideas for how to keep your team motivated and on track, reduce execution risk, and ensure forward progress.

And it includes important worksheets and templates for how to define and track control points and how to communicate timelines in a clear and motivating way.

Members: Download this webinar for free.

Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

More, useful webinars for motivating your team:

As a member, just around this topic of metrics, execution and team performance you can get these other related webinars:

So if you are not yet a member, you might as well join and get them all for free!

Join Now
Join Now.

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Let me be your mentor

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Members of the Azzarello Group program for Professional Development basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.
Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership to Azzarello Group is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

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AT CHECKOUT TO SAVE $30 ON YOUR MEMBERSHIP

Join Now
Join Now

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Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)
Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Talk vs. Action: Collectively Admiring the Problem


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The Monday MOVE Idea

Each Monday until the launch of my upcoming book MOVE, I’ll be sharing an important idea from the book. This week: Talk vs. Action: Collectively Admiring the Problem.

Big Goals

Think about the really important goals your team talks about all the time. When you talk about them everyone agrees they are critical. We must improve quality. We must innovate. We must respond to a competitive threat. We must evolve our business model to provide better service.

Talk vs. Action

To move your team from talking about important stuff in a vague way, to actually making progress on these things in a real way, the first step is to realize that you are stuck because you are still only Talking.

It’s vitally important as a leader to recognize when your team is falling into the pattern of accepting smart sounding ideas and inputs instead of measurable forward progress.

The most effective way I have found to break through this is to recognize when you get stuck only talking about the Situation.

Situation Discussions

Sure it’s important to use some time to note and understand the situation, but you can just sense it when everyone has internalized the situation and then … you keep talking about it! Talking and talking and talking about it.

You can feel it in your stomach when the meeting is not going anywhere and you’re still talking. The talk gets smarter and smarter sounding and the forward motion everyone is craving never happens.

Situation discussions are basically: Collectively admiring the problem.

You need to change the nature of the conversation to become one that drives action, instead of just more talking.

I outline the specific steps to do this in MOVE. I’m really excited to share it with you!

Pre-Order MOVE and win a 6 Hour 1-1 Coaching Program with Me

MOVE will be available February 28, but if you pre-order your copy now you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a 6 hour executive coaching program with me. There will be TWO winners!

Click to pre-order and enter.

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I’m really excited to share the important ideas, and all the tools I put in my upcoming book MOVE to help you get your team (at any organizational level) to execute your strategy more decisively.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my facebook page.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

The hidden cost of a business review


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Too much time spent on internal reviewing!

In the last two weeks alone, I have had 3 different organizations at 3 different companies tell me that they are preparing for an executive business review and therefore can’t do anything else for the next 2 – 3 weeks.

Regularly, when I talk with mid-level managers about time management challenges, one of their biggest challenges is the fact that they are required to spend so much time preparing for business reviews for executives, that they can’t get their actual work done.

The Expensive Business Review

When you ask an organization to do a business review, you might put 2 hours or half a day on your calendar a few weeks out. That’s what it’s worth to you, on your calendar.

But you need to be aware that this one request can completely paralyze your whole organization. The internal review (to impress you), becomes the urgent business priority, and virtually all work on the business itself stops for weeks to prepare.

Of course, business reviews have their place.

As an executive, especially if you are on the board, you need to satisfy yourself that the business is running properly, and that the work you have committed is getting done.

Getting (only) what you need from a business review

But you need to find a way to ask the questions, get the answers, and feel like you are in the loop of how the business is doing, without creating risk by how you ask.

It’s important to realize that way you review the business may be one of the biggest risks to actually succeeding in your business.

Don’t just ask for “A Review

When you ask for a business review, it’s like throwing a grenade into your organization. There will be many meetings where people get together to debate, “What do you think our boss wants to hear? What are the key messages? How much do we share? What do we feature?”

Once they decide, your team will spend however much time you give them between the request and the review itself, preparing — and doing little else.

This open ended request of a “business review” will give your team a lot of stress, and will not guarantee that you get the information you truly need. And you’ll likely get a lot more non-useful information than you truly need.

Steps to a good review process

Here are some steps to having a productive business review that doesn’t cripple your team to prepare for.

1. Sit down with your business team to discuss what you truly need to learn from the review. If possible, provide a template.

2. Budget the amount of time that preparing the review is worth. Let then know that you only want X number of people to spend Y amount of time preparing. Make it clear that the work is the priority, not the review.

3. Make the amount of time spent on preparing the review part of the review. Shine a spotlight on this and decide with your team what is reasonable. Put in the template a place to record how many people worked for how many hours.

4. Articulate the key control points in the business, and what the desired outcomes and measures are for those, before the review prep starts. Don’t send your team off to debate what should be included. Tell the up front.

5. Identify key risk areas you want to see the plans for. Make a list of the risks, ask for the next top two if they are not on your list and ask to see the plan to mitigate them.

6. Create a 1 page dashboard that the team needs to report on. In addition to a template that guides the preparation process, a one page dashboard can be valuable. You could say for example that any element of the business that has been green for the past two reviews and is green again does not need to be included other than in the dashboard.

Don’t invent too much new stuff

The key thought here, is that the materials you use to review the business should be ones that the business is using to run the business, not some special 100 slide presentation that was only prepared for your review, that has no value otherwise.

My guideline when I was running a $1B business software business, was that I never wanted a team to spend more than 1 week elapsed time, and no one person should spend more than 2 hours preparing for an internal review. I want to see what you are actually doing, using the same artifacts you are using to run your part of the business. Don’t create new stuff. Let’s talk about what’s really happening, not some artificial presentation designed to impress me with it’s polish.

Get over your addiction to detail

The other thing that I see becoming a huge time sink in organizations is when the executives are so addicted to detail that they insist that even the lowest level of detail be dragged up and vetted through every level of management and reviewed and inspected over and over again.

Moving too much detail up kills organizational effectiveness, is hugely expensive, and introduces more risk than it averts. Managers should be creating insights not just moving all their detail up.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on the Azzarello Group Facebook page.

Who else would like to see this?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook