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Manage Your Opinions for Optimal Decisions

If you are ready to improve your team decision making “Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”[1]

When you cease to cherish opinions you avoid unnecessary conflict and achieve optimal decisions by allowing the “truth” to reveal itself through analysis, intuition, and dialog.

There is nothing wrong with opinions. Just don’t cherish them. To cherish them is to be attached to and identified with your opinions. Avoid this because it gets in the way of finding optimal decisions and it fuels unnecessary conflict and division.


What are opinions?

Everyone has opinions. They are the result of our experience, beliefs, knowledge, and training. They express our intelligence. They can be useful, and they can also get in the way.

Opinions are beliefs, points of view, assumptions, or judgements. They are not conclusive, not facts.

Often, we do not have the luxury of making fact-based decisions. Our issues may be too complex. Data may not be available. We may act on an opinion and gut feel, but if we do, it is best to do it with objectivity and self-awareness.


Objectivity and Self-awareness

Objectivity knows the difference between fact, certainty, and opinion. It values facts and realizes that subjectivity is also valuable. Self-awareness tells you when your attachment to your opinion is causing emotions to surface and you to resist questioning your opinion.

Together these two, objectivity and self-awareness, are key to effective relationships. And effective relationships are critical success factors. They are displayed in decision making, conflict management, planning, problem solving, change management – just about every aspect of project work or any kind of collaborative effort.


Managing Opinions

We are living in a time when beliefs and opinions are confused with facts and reality. People have lost the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity.

Are you willing to question and validate your beliefs and assumptions?


“When you see …, how belief, prejudice, conclusions, and ideals divide people and therefore breed conflict, you see that such activity is obviously not intelligence.

  Will you drop all your prejudices, all your opinions … so that you have a free, uncluttered mind?

If you say it is impossible, you will never find out for yourself what it is to be intelligent.” — J. Krishnamurti Excerpt from Can Conflict End?


Opinions Drive Action

Manage opinions well because they drive action. We hold opinions about team values, what vendor to use, how best to perform some tasks, who to hire, promote, or fire, and more. Opinions directly affect performance because they influence decisions.

Clearly, we want to make sure we understand the need to put opinions under the microscope and see their source and why we have them. Our approach is to balance opinions and fact-based analysis to make decisions that consider opinions and seek optimal results.



Being attached to and identified with opinions gets in the way. What does it mean to be attached to and identified with your opinions?

It means that you are so convinced that your opinion is “right” that you reject or suppress alternative opinions and refuse to question and validate your own. You are cherishing your opinion as if it were a part of your body. When you see it as an idea, a concept, you can value your opinion without being attached to it. This allows you to be open and respectful of other opinions.

Valuing is different than cherishing. You value your opinion because you think it is well founded on a strong belief, experience, data, theory, etc. You value it enough to state it and argue for it. And you also value the learning you get from exploring and validating your opinion.



Learning may strengthen your conviction that your opinion is worthy of being acted upon. Or it may show you that your opinion is not worth holding onto.

Learning comes out of dialog with opinions being shared and supported by the reasoning behind them. Be open to changing opinions to reach win-win outcomes and the actionable decisions that resolve issues most effectively.


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When opinions are based on strong beliefs, for example the belief that agile project management is always better than alternatives, there is a need to explore and question the underlying belief.

Fortunately, in project work we are less likely to find strong underlying beliefs driving decisions. When they do present themselves, we can justify confronting them because it is part of our best practices.

With beliefs regarding social and political issues it is not so easy. While these beliefs and the opinions that grow out of them is important, it is best to address them outside of business decision making.


Exploring Opinions

Should the sponsor of a project express her opinion, for example, “AI is too immature to waste our time looking at it”? Even if she isn’t convinced about her opinion, it will influence the team. As a leader, it is wise to hold back and open the space for opinions to be shared easily.

Other team members may have the opinion that there is something to be gained and that it won’t take much to explore how an available tool might be used to make the project go more smoothly with less effort and higher quality.

Wise leaders ask questions that lead the team (including the leader) to identify opinions and explore them to find the best outcome.

Are assertions backed by facts? For example, is AI not mature enough? Would it be too costly to explore? What biases are at work? What does ‘too costly’ mean?


Decision Making

Managing opinions is one part of decision making — the process that settles conflicts, underpins planning, vendor selection, and every aspect of team performance. It is a mission critical capability, no matter what the mission.


In the following articles I have explored decision-making from different perspectives:


[1] Seng-ts’an The Third Zen Patriarch,  Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on Faith in Mind).

George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.