“I can’t believe what just happened. You remember, months ago, the committee told me to develop a promo plan? Well, as you know, I’ve been working on it. I brought them updates all along, which they approved, though it wasn’t clear how much attention they were paying.”

“On schedule, I brought the promo plan to yesterday’s meeting for final approval. I guess the finality woke Dave up. He started questioning the assumptions we made months ago, which was annoying enough after all the work I had done. But, worse, he acted like he was the one paying attention while the rest of us are sleeping.

“Out of respect for group consensus and good old cover-your-ass risk aversion, the committee decided to table my plan long enough for Dave to rethink it. And maybe he’ll come up with something new. There’s always something more to consider. Still, I just wish he could temper his newfound enthusiasm with some appreciation for how eleventh-hour initiative works.”

Mind Readers Dictionary: The Podfast : Play in Popup

Mind Readers Dictionary : Play in Popup

People do what Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon called “satisficing”: We take for granted and ignore whatever is working well enough to be sufficiently satisfying. We apply mental grease only to the squeakiest wheels, and, once they’re greased well enough, we forget about them. We concentrate our limited attention on the headline news and ignore the rest.

Eleventh-hour initiative is a costly consequence of satisficing that emerges in group decision making. Final decisions are squeaky wheels that get people’s attention; progress reports leading up to final decisions are not. Our scrutiny is therefore naturally inconsistent — we ignore the details until we’ve got to commit to them.

Given eleventh-hour initiative, we can expect reservations about moving forward on a project to increase just when the time to commit arrives, regardless of the quality of the project.