This last week we had several very good meetings with our advisors who helped us refine our direction. Like stepping into a frigid pool on a scorching day, it was both refreshing and shocking. The result was very positive, but I was surprised that I hadn’t seen the refinements prior to meeting.
Sometime ago, at a previous company, I was working on a project and there was a decision to release an early, partially done version. This was decided due to some pieces being delivered earlier and also to help with some of the early testing, but making a release requires a lot of extra overhead. These were our assumptions and they all seemed valid at the time, so we decided to proceed.
In the process of actually getting to the release, some of the pieces slipped out and the release itself slipped as a result. After we made the release, it was pretty clear that we should NOT have wasted our time making a partial release this late in the game, but we never went back to challenge the assumptions that drove us to make this release in the first place (until it was too late).
When we make decisions, the decisions become self reinforcing which means subsequent decisions build on them. We don’t normally mark out all of our assumptions that might change when we decide to move a particular direction, and even if we did, we don’t revisit the thinking that went into them. Once a decision is made, we move forward from there, and unless someone from outside who wasn’t part of the original decision starts questioning it, it can be difficult to see that the original assumptions are no longer right.
This is why we need to have outside advisors — others around us who don’t smoke our dope, and who can give us a slap or two when we need it. Ideally, these advisors should be friends who want to see you succeed but are outside of your normal circle. These people can give you a new perspective and to challenge your unspoken assumptions and lead to much improved decisions.