Evaluating the Impact Before the Decision
As the lockdown continues, I realize that never before has there been a better time to evaluate the effectiveness of complex decision making. It is human nature to evaluate the impact of our decisions based on the result of that decision or a series of decisions instead of the process of decision making. Annie Duke talks about this in her book “Thinking in Bets”. She reminds us of the Superbowl in 2015 where the coach called for the quarterback to pass instead of handing off the ball in the closing seconds of the game. The decision was unexpected and, unfortunately, resulted in a lost game. The coach had to face the headlines the next day; “Worst Play-Call in Superbowl History”. But what if it had worked?
In the world we live in right now, decisions continue to be made on a daily basis. We cannot know the final cumulative impact, the effect on death rates, or on the economy. The internet is flooded with debate – about what is the right thing to do, who started this mess in the first place, and how to get out of it as quickly as possible. There is a debate raging, and sides are being taken regarding the balance between human safety and the economic impact. I have heard it said that more people will lose their jobs then die in this pandemic. The politicians, business leaders and health officials are struggling to resolve that dilemma. Do you shut businesses down and save lives, or do you keep businesses open and save livelihoods?
What inspires me though, is the togetherness of both rational and instinctual decision making like never before. The ‘data’ has taken front and centre in these decisions. Politicians are sharing this data openly to demonstrate the rationale for their decisions. Doug Ford recently released a model to predict how many deaths (best and worse case) we would expect in Ontario if the quarantine measures are upheld. I am inspired by the fact that never before has data been so essential.
Instinct Needs to Play a Role
Having said that, a model is still only a model. In addition to being bad decision-makers, humans are also very poor at forecasting. This is where instinct needs to play a role. We need to balance off what the data is telling us and what we believe is most likely to happen, and the other ramifications associated with our decision. The good politicians are doing this.
Leaders can evaluate the impact of their decisions by:
- consulting and relying on experts
- talking to other leaders
- looking at various and sometimes conflicting data points
- encouraging differing points of view from a variety of stakeholders
- being systematic and purposeful in the validation process
What if every leader evaluated the effectiveness of his or her decision making before the decision was made? What if we evaluated the impact of our decisions on how we made the decision, rather than how good that decision was? When we make big decisions or a series of decisions, we can’t know the outcome. We can only predict using the facts we have and the information we believe. We help organizations and people to make better decisions; to find the balance between rational and intuitive thought.
Are you able to find that balance?