There are many times as a lead production superintendent that I sat in a meeting and received the status of an aircraft. Our Pro Super was briefing an entire laundry list of issues with and I had that feeling much of this was self-induced by him. The whole time I was thinking, “how on earth did we get to this point?!” I was ready to point my finger and pass judgment for all that had happened, but then I remembered all those times I was in the other seat.
Hindsight is a tricky thing. It makes us feel dumb that we didn’t buy a house after the market bubble burst. It makes us look back onto a decision we made and realize the decision we should have made. When the football coach goes for it on fourth and one, he is a genius or a moron depending on if it worked or not. The next day everyone is picking this choice apart looking at all the variables and what could have been. Unfortunately, at the point of decision, we do not have the ability to know how things are going to play out for certain.
I remember a decision that I had five minutes to make and it turned out to be a bad choice because of the sequence of events that followed. It took my supervision almost an entire month with the benefit of hindsight to figure out how to handle the situation. Even after all that had happened, I would have still made the same decision.
When we see all of the fallout of a decision gone wrong, we think it was automatically a bad decision. However, what we need to do is return to the point where the decision was made. What facts were known at the time? Should they have consulted someone else? Were there waving red flags at the time? Then consider what decision you would have made. This is how a decision should be graded.
Sometimes the person had a 50/50, coin flip type decision. Instead of berating the person for having the guts to make a decision that turned out poorly, I would often thank them for actually making a decision and kicking the can to the next person. Then privately, sit down with them and talk through the choice and how it could be handled differently if something similar ever arises again. This is how you teach others to navigate through the gray areas we often face in leadership positions.
The judgment of a choice should not be solely determined by the outcome; rather, by going to the point of decision.