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When in doubt, make it up.

It was late one night, and I was frustrated. My pile of “waiting to hear back” was growing. In an effort to move the ball forward, I decided I would take a different approach.

I looked at each project and wrote down “my answer” to the open issue so I could get the ball rolling. The next day, it moved everything forward. Then as the “answers” came back, I learned two things. First, most of my answers were dead on and sometimes more complete. And second, the ones that weren’t, could be adjusted on the fly and didn’t materially affect the quality of the overall work. In fact, it was better because we were back on track and not rushing to make deadlines.

It bolstered my confidence as a leader and pushed me to move more boldly from that day forward. It also taught me the value of a new approach. Our school years teach us that someone has the answer book so we need to work to that end to “get it right”.

In real life, there is usually more than one answer and no “answer book” to reference. It relies on our ability to solve problems. And sometimes, you just have to “make it up” to break the log jam.

Yes I said “make it up”.

story people

It allows you to keep the ball rolling and relies on your leadership and good judgment to make the right choice. What I have learned is that 85% of the time you are right and the other 15% can be corrected on the fly. Now I would never recommend this for safety issues, regulation issues etc. but things in general, it works.

It also frees your people to apply their thinking and problem solving skills to the issue. It promotes resourcefulness, personal accountability, collaboration and team work. It makes it ok to say “I don’t know” but keeps you on the hook for using your good judgment to decide.

It also brings laughter. As you review project plans, someone might question things as they seek to understand.   And sometimes the answer is, well I just made it up. It all cases, it accelerated our learning and quality of work.

Try it sometime, it is has amazing effects on the people and their ability to get work done. In the end, it makes it more fun, brings new energy and makes your team feel empowered to do their best work.


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  1. Vision is the first, and most important step to manifestation. This proposed strategy and tool helps individuals practice and fine tune this very important skill. Thank You Nancy.

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