…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

Marketplace decision making ….. and saying No

In project meetings, …..
my hearers are pleasantly surprised that Jesus words are so down-to-earth,
practical and relevant to our work, …. when one of His stories  is used as an example of the principles of decision making & the project management triangle.

The passage is

Luke 14:27-33 (NLT)
27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

In this passage, Jesus is talking about counting the cost before making the decision to be his disciples.

In it, he also lays down very down-to-earth principles on decision making.

There are two situations requiring decisions,

  • a building project
  • an impending crisis, war

One common word in both stories is the word “first“,
i.e. the first thing to do …

If you fail to plan,
you are planning to fail!
– Benjamin Franklin

In both stories,
the first thing is to ascertain the feasibility and possibility, address the gaps, explore alternatives, plan and decide what to do,

The first thing was definitely not reactive, i.e. action … but to think and take stock ….. then decide and plan the course of action.
Go slow .. to go fast.


Jesus is right.  He pointed out 2 important things to consider – enough money and soliders.  In corporate speak – right budget, and right resources with right skillset.

“who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it”

Reality check.

Gather the facts.

Do we have adequate resources to complete the project ?
Do we have the enough money, if not how can we get or justify the investment ?
Do we have enough manpower?
Do we have the right skills and experience, if not where can we get the know-how?
Is it achievable within the timeframe?

If these building blocks are not considered … the building is not possible to be built in time.

you might complete only the foundation before running out of money”

And if the money is only enough for the foundation, then may be we
should build a much, much smaller building, i.e. scale down out aspirations (reduce the scope),  ….. 
or wait till we have enough money, and ask ourselves is this the right time to build ? 

If not, everyone would see and know about our folly.
and then everyone would laugh at you”

Has one bite off more than one can chew ?

The builder’s decision is made objectively, based on facts and data …. and not on emotions or ego.  In others words, cold and calculated.

“construction of a building”

Grand vision and dreams are wonderful and uplifting,
noble intentions are great,

ambitious egos are blinding,
and inspiring words from any leader can only carry us so far

soon … reality sets in,
the rubber hits the road,
… can we? … are we able to do this?

Execution is everything
– Jack Welch

The most important thing is the execution, the delivery.
Its not how we start but how we end.

There have been times when marketplace leaders or church leaders lead a 50-person company or church as though they are runnng a 200 people organisation, …. with bells and whistles …. with many balls up in the air and the people barely keeping everything going … a perpetual treadmill … a leaky boat.
In the end, quality suffers.
Can we do this well ?

At a more personal level …. can we afford the loan, take on additional credit ?
Do we have time to commit to this or that activity ?

In the fact discovery phase, we should avoid getting into over-analysis or decision paralysis. Identify and focus on the important facts that affect success.  We also acknowledge that in any endeavour there are “unknown unknowns”, things/events we do not know or control before hand.  Hence, we should have enough facts, but not exhaustive facts to help us to make a calculated risk decision.

A reality check is crucial.


Let’s go to the second scenario …

“what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?”

Here the odds are stacked against the king by 100%.
Is this challenge possible to overcome?

Furthermore, this threat is “marching against him”,
i.e. he did not pick the fight,
he was also fighting against time.

Can a weak underdog overcome a formidable, powerful and massive opponent?
Eg.  A massive conglomerate with deep pockets has decided to invade a market.

When David overcame Goliath, the odds were also stacked against him.

With God’s help, David triumphed (1 Samuel 17).
David had to act out his faith,
go into the arena and confront Goliath,
faced the taunting and the jeers,
attack Goliath,
so that he could possess God’s victory.
Just like Joshua and his generation, God had promised victory,
… they had to go in by faith, face the Jerichos, and possess it.

David won through superior air power, rather than arm to arm combat …
David re-defined the battle and hence, the odds.  He exploited a niche, a weakness in Goliath’s armour.  The speed and the element of surprise in his highly focused attack made up for his lack of strength and stature against Goliath.   David leveraged on his competitive advantage – his superior skill and precision in the slingshot, and with one decisive blow overcame the odds.  Goliath was too massive to be agile and nimble to respond to David’s swift surprise.  He also was over confident, and underestimated David and his slingshot’s tiny stone … he did not see what was coming straight at him.
While the Israelites saw Goliath was too huge to overcome in arm to arm battle, David saw Goliath was too huge to miss with his slingshot.
David flung the tiny stone … God guided the projectile with pin-point accuracy and force.

Ecclesiastes 10:10
10 If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened
more strength is needed
but skill will bring success.

Before the battle, Saul offered David his armor, sword and helmet, but after trying them on, David said, “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off (1 Samuel 17:39 NIV).  So he faced Goliath without any armor, except the Lord.  Free from the clunky, clumsy, heavy and unfamiliar, untested armor … David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him (1 Samuel 17:48 NIV) … and flung his stone with great speed and agility to the unsuspecting Goliath.

Back to our original story.  Its interesting, that Jesus did not insert the thought … that the king should pray.  He did not spiritualise the story.  This makes his story and course of action all the more down-to-earth, realistic and convincing to his hearers.  Jesus’ parable stories were always down-to-earth and everyone could relate with.

Sometimes … the phrase “I’ll pray about it” … is just an excuse to do nothing.
Sometimes … the answer “Yes” … means “maybe” … or “if there is time, it’ll be done”.
As time progresses, others involved are left in a limbo, uncertain …. and worse still disappointed …. frustrated.
But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ .. Matthew 5:37 (NKJV)
Integrity.  Respect.
Are we reliable, trustworthy, faithful?

The ownership of the decision lay squarely with the king and the builder, …. the buck stops here … no passing the buck to someone else or God.

The New Living Translation, adds an additional thought “sitting down with his counselors to discuss”.
I agree with this thought.  It is practical and common sense.  It is also consistent with other portions of scripture.

Proverbs 24:6 (NLT)
So don’t go to war without wise guidance;
    victory depends on having many advisers.

Seek guidance from people with wisdom earned through the crucible of experience.

Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV, NLT)
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Without wise leadership, a nation falls;
    there is safety in having many advisers.

Proverbs 20:18 (NLT)
Make plans by listening to what others have to say, and make war by listening to the leading of wise men.

Great leaders
surround themselves
with great people.
Lone ranger leadership
is doomed to fail,
there is
no one great person
that is going to
transform an organisation
it takes
a strong team
and a great leader.”
– Unknown

Note the word “listen“.  Listen respectfully to people who disagree with us, or poke holes at our reasoning/decision.  Don’t look for “yes men”, i.e. people who will always agree with us … look for wise people.

We all need help with our blind spots.  A bruised pride is a small price to pay to avoid a poor decision.

Also don’t fall into the narrow trap of looking and looking and looking … until finally … someone agrees or “confirms” with our reasoning/decision, … and based on their opinion our decision is “justified”.

Always keep in mind …. we may not have all the answers/resources, … but may be … someone else within our organisation, network of friends, professional peers, mentors and family does.

Don’t be too proud to ask, or simply say
“I don’t know”.

“And if he can’t”, after thoroughly exploring all strategies and possible outcomes to overcome the problem/threat, comparative SWOT analysis of his army and the enemy’s army ….

“And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.”
Also look for other options to re-solve the problem.   Think laterally.
For example, not all problems can be adequately solved by just introducing technology or the latest gadgets.
For the king, may be diplomacy instead of confrontation is a wise option … i.e. compromise, negotiate.

Unlike the building project, where only the builder’s pride is bruised,
in the war project, the loss of lives and assets have to be weighed carefully.
The measure of success is different for both projects.
Always ask, “What is the success criteria and objectives we are aiming for ?”
Always start with clear goals, if not … it is easy to wander,
and later wonder why our arrow missed the target by a long shot :-(.

For the king, whether taking the option of confrontation or diplomacy, the ultimate outcome he is looking for is peace.

For the builder, may be he can still build by scaling back his plans or wait when he has the right adequate resources,
but for the king, time is not on his side, he has to be decisive and decide what to do.

“while the enemy is still far away”, i.e. don’t procrastinate, don’t let problems fester, don’t wait until its too late.  In project management speak, identify and mitigate risks early before they become issues.

By the way, Jesus strategy for this battle, is similar to the thoughts of Sun Tzu in the Art of War – If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.  If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.


So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Any good plan, needs commitment to follow-through to execute the plan.  The leader has to gain the buy-in from the team … and a sense of ownership.

Commitment is both a function of heart and mind .. faith in the vision/goal, inner motivation or incentivised motivation, and a tenacious will.

In self-voluntary situations, its hard to demand commitment from others; such commitment is usually earned through trust.

Jesus is the perfect shepherd, faithful, trustworthy, willing to give up his life for his sheep, and with all power to personally help each disciple to be an overcomer.  He is worthy of our trust and commitment.


In conclusion, decision making is making the call, after realistically examining the facts, exploring the options and acknowledging the risks.  Don’t rush to make a hasty or emotional decision.  Don’t be reactive, or decide impulsively.

Yes, Jesus marketplace decision style is

  • logical
  • objective
  • data and fact driven,
  • consultative and collaborative,
  • not a one-size fits all solution but exploring and weighing alternatives/options
  • and having a clear understanding of the objective

saying NO
if it is not feasible,
after careful consideration,
or in “marketplace speak”, due diligence.

Not making a decision
is also a decision,
with possible consequences that we have to live with.

Back to the original context of why Jesus was sharing these 2 stories.
Besides being a spiritual experience, the decision to be a disciple of Jesus is also a heart and mind choice of daily surrender to His will with His help.

Faith does not mean we abandon our common sense … think … God also gave us brains, lets use it wisely 🙂

At a personal level, when considering tasks or assignments:

Here’s three simple questions to consider:

  • What.  Is this task (or whatever) is necessary?
  • Who.  Am I the most appropriate person to do this task?
  • How.  What is the best way of doing the task?

Saying ‘No’ respectfully & politely to a request:

“No, I am sorry.
I know you <acknowledge the other person’s problem, challenge, etc>,
but, I am not able to help <now, today, this week, etc>
because <reason>

if possible, for a win-win compromise,

suggest an alternative workaround or person,
or when you will be available to help,
or what you can reasonably deliver in the timeframe given, on top of your other work/obligations, i.e. manage expectations.

Business | Work

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
October 12, 2014

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License



This entry was posted on October 12, 2014 by in Business, Daily Rice, Marketplace, Work and tagged , , .

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