Leap Year Lesson #20: Don’t Give Up the Wrong Thing

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Decision Making

I had a beloved pastor and friend many years ago in Missouri – Brother Don – who was fond of telling people when facing tough choices “Don’t give up the wrong thing.” In the context of his pastoral advice, the situation was usually a moral one, although at times it was a choice based on too little time to do all one might like.

For example, to the person trying to choose between staying with his wife and children versus abandoning them to start a new life with someone else, the advice implies that there is a right choice and a wrong choice, that he has to give up one or the other, and that he’d better not give up the wrong thing. That is, he’d better not give up his wife and kids to follow his selfish, thrill-seeking inclination for someone else.

At work, such a choice may play out differently. For example, I have seen many times when decision makers must choose between meeting some self-imposed deadline on a project (however unrealistic) versus investing time in producing a quality end product. I’ve known some decision makers inclined to promote quality over time and I’ve seen my share of decisions where a deadline is the primary driver regardless of whether or not the final product is ready for prime time.

I understand that managing project constraints is always a difficult balance of choosing between fast, good and cheap and that you can only pick two of the three for any given project. In business, there are drivers other than moral ones influencing the final decision. Still, Brother Don’s advice to not give up the wrong thing applies when considering which of the three – fast, good or cheap – you are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the others.

It may be easier and temporarily more comfortable or pleasant to give up the right thing and do the wrong thing, but chances are pretty good that you will regret such a decision in the end.

When faced with a choice where you can’t have it both ways, remember Brother Don’s advice and follow leap year lesson #20 – Don’t give up the wrong thing.

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