Don’t Suffer Through Another Crappy Movie!

A few weeks ago, my wife and I did the unthinkable.  We went out on a date, sans kids; one featuring a meal at a restaurant with actual menus.  Not a neck-craning wall board cluttered with clowns.  A real, live, honest-to-goodness menu you hold in your hands.  It was glorious.

After dinner, we took out a second mortgage and bought tickets to see a summer blockbuster.  Thirty minutes into the film, we both looked at each other and whispered,

“This movie stinks.”

The acting was horrific.  The characters were awful.  And the story line was so implausible that it made our popcorn go stale.   So, we did what normal, rational people do.

We sat through another two hours of misery hoping it would improve.  It didn’t.

We thought we were doing the practical thing.  We had paid for the movie, so we thought we should stick it out.  In truth, by failing to clarify our alternatives, we chose to double our suffering.  The real choice was a) walking out and wasting $30 on movie tickets, but gaining two hours of adult conversation, or b) staying and wasting $30 on a horrible movie AND losing two hours of our lives we will never get back.

Unfortunately, our story is not unique.  It happens every day in movie theaters and meeting rooms across the country.  We fall in to the most heinous decision making trap of all.  The “sunk cost” trap.

If you want to stop the insanity of the sunk cost trap in your organization, you can start by following these three steps.

  1. Identify Your “Crappy Movies”:  We all have them.  Projects that have lingered twice as long as expected…and still are nowhere close to completion.  New system implementations that are horrendously over budget, yet we keep pumping money in to the beast in hopes that the square peg will somehow fit.
  2. Restate Objectives:  Assume you had never started the “crappy movie.”  List the objectives the current project/implementation is designed to meet.
  3. Clarify Alternatives:  Ignore the sunk costs and ask, “If we were making this decision today, which alternative best satisfies our original objectives.”  Often the answer is something other than your current course of action.

Don’t settle for doubling your misery.  Instead, follow these steps to root out wasteful decision making and refocus on your original objectives.  If you are looking for other ways to develop decision making in your organization, just give me a call at (800) 386-5611.  We would love to hear from you.

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