The Price of Management Debt

“Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or with sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they’ll cut it today. Why? Because they’ve paid the price of management debt, and they would rather not do that again.” – From the Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I’ve never heard anyone talk about ‘management debt’.  What a powerful concept! It smacked me between the eyes! This is a powerful frame for leaders because it puts the notion of DEBT on indecision. Decision/indecision doesn’t just have a ‘cost’; it has a ‘debt’! It allows us to ask, “What debt will I incur in NOT dealing with this tough issue?”

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