Not taking decisions is frustrating

Captain's log, stardate d397.y39/AB

As we grow as a company, the life of the founders becomes increasingly a complex labyrinth of puzzles and riddles that we need to solve to ensure that things get done and that we're moving in the right direction.

Vending Machine & Man - Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

As much as you can read about business and about how to manage your own company, you will never be prepared to face this hard reality: slowly and gradually, decisions take more and more of your daily time and mental bandwidth. One day, you're completely saturated and think "how did I let this happen"? Easy: it happens a tiny bit every day until it's too much to bear.

The same way that you don't notice your toddler's growth because you see her every day, but a friend - who sees her every six months - does, it's the same with meetings, decisions and other cumbersome aspects of running a business.

Lately, I've been a little bit overwhelmed and I've been feeling a little bit anxious about it all. I didn't know why, but I felt mentally blocked and it affected my performance at work and even my own mood, in and out of work.

After a call with one of my co-founders, it's dawned on me why I felt this way. I find it reassuring that we have realised that one of the main reasons is that our minds were full of uncertainties and concerns.

We are in the process of exiting our biggest project and we need to move people out of it and into other clients. We decided to stop working for our biggest client a few weeks ago due to a strong cultural clash, and we feel that it's one of the best moves we've done as a company in our seven years of existence.

We also have some projects without developers assigned, which we can start whenever we've got someone available. We also have one developer on medical leave and we don't know when he'll return and how he'll feel once he's back. One of our most senior Tech Leads is having a second baby soon and we need to take care of his projects while he's on paternity leave for the next four months. We need to manage a few opportunities with prospective clients to sell our capacity for the rest of the year. We have to apply some of the planned rotations. We also have to.. you get it!

All in all, we have this extremely complex and intricate set of decisions that we have been perceiving as one big thing where all the pieces have to fit perfectly. An equation with ten or fifteen unknowns that needed to be solved at once.

Our expectation of making the best possible decision to solve this puzzle was blocking us. Currently, there is no best decision possible because we have too much uncertainty and too many variables. Also, once these uncertainties are over it might be too late to react. And in the meantime, all these concerns are accumulating.

So, we have decided to start taking action. Right now. Maybe our choices prove to be incorrect or subpar, but they are the best ones we can take right now. Taking them one step at a time is allowing us to progress and to start moving other things that need our attention. We are reducing the number of possible scenarios with every decision we make and, while we might encounter a cul-de-sac with potentially one undesired outcome, this is better than not moving at all.

In fact, it is better to take small steps in due time than to let it all accumulate and snowball into a potentially huge catastrophe.

For now, we've started moving with small changes to the situations that we were in most control of, and then we'll start moving into other aspects of the company or projects where responsibilities are shared with clients, partners, providers and other stakeholders.

For instance, some of these small actions we've started are:

  • We are partially moving one of our developers out of our longest-standing project in September, to be replaced with a new hire to take care of it with his guidance and mine. We wanted to wait until he could be out of the project full-time, but it would've taken potentially some extra months and we couldn't afford to wait any longer.
  • We're gradually moving out developers of the client we're exiting into other clients who need extra capacity. We feel truly blessed to have clients who want to increase our capacity whenever it's possible.
  • We moved out our employee on medical leave of his project so we can plan accordingly without any affection to him or to the client. Whenever he'll be back, he will support other ongoing projects without having the pressure of having to compensate for the time out.
  • I am stopping most of the hiring, podcast contributions, new estimates and non-tech stuff to focus on leading the technical department, so that we can divide our workload better.

The above are just a few of the actions that we're implementing. They seem fairly trivial stuff, but when you're faced with an empty sudoku, every small step forward counts. You can't fill it out all at once.

With each one of the aforementioned small steps, we've felt a little more liberated, and this is how we've realised that our anxiety was caused by the immobilism of not taking action. You can't just wait to have all the answers at the same time. You've got to take some bets and leaps of faith, sometimes.

And what's more, decisions are progress. Not taking decisions generates frustration.

Xavier Redó

Xavier Redó

Responsible for architecture and development. He's the one to blame for our techstack (Ruby on Rails, Angular, React, Node.js) and the one to be thanked as well. One of the very few developers with social skills we know.

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