When Is It Your Call?

Mark and I watched Money Monster last weekend. One of the characters asked, “When is it your call?” (No, I don’t remember who or the total context. It was about the responsibility of recommending stocks to people.) The idea was “When is it your responsibility?”

I got to thinking about who makes which calls about decisions: when and what to start, stop, continue.

In our personal lives, we often make the call ourselves. We take responsibility for our lives: our relationships, our careers, how we live.

When it comes to health issues, we involve our health professionals, doctors, physical therapists, etc. You might not need a circle of health professionals as I do (I hope you don’t!), and often, we can’t make decisions without more data or more help.

At work, our managers often make the call. They take the responsibility for what work the organization is supposed to do, and when it’s done.

Unless we or they don’t.

Not making a decision is a decision. Years ago, I worked in an organization where the managers were addicted to multitasking. They thought if we all worked just a little on everything, sooner or later, we would ship.  I was a developer, and no, I wasn’t making progress on anything. I got further and further behind.

I went to my boss and asked him what the first deliverable was. “Well, it’s either Project1, Project2, or Project3.” I’m pretty sure I said to him, “Make a decision already. Which one?” He changed the subject.

I chose Project1, got some of my colleagues to help me and we finished it. I made the call.

I find this idea of responsibility for decisions fascinating. When should we decide? When do we involve others? How do we involve them?

It’s tempting for many of us to say, “This is my responsibility to decide about this thing.” I know that I want to decide about my health, how I choose to live, and what I choose to work on.

And, we don’t live or work in bubbles. We are part of systems. Our bodies are systems, which is why I want help and knowledge from my health professionals. Our personal relationships are systems, which is why I involve Mark (and back when the kids lived at home) in my decisions about work to take and work to not take. Our organizations are systems, too. That’s why there are very few decisions you can make without at least a discussion with other people.

In the project portfolio book, I say that no one should decide on the project portfolio alone. I like to work collaboratively, which is why I like pairing, swarming, or mobbing.

This week, though, I am thinking about our responsibilities to our greater society when we decide. When we recommend possibilities to others, we make the call. When we decide for other people, we make the call. When we don’t decide, we have made the call.

That, dear readers, is the question this week: When is it your call?

2 thoughts on “When Is It Your Call?”

  1. My wife went into the Navy after high school. She speaks often about decisions as being either above or below the water line. Any decision that goes wrong, she says, has the potential to blow a hole in the hull. If the hole is above the water line, it’s not great to have to patch the hull but at least the ship doesn’t sink. If the hole is below the water line, you’re going down. So consider whether, in your environment, the decision you’re about to make is above or below the water line. Check with a higher authority before making a call that could be below the water line.

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