Are you the victim of “decisional set-up”?

In a recent Harvard Executive course I took, our decision making class instructor said – “it’s not the information you HAVE that clouds your decision making, it’s the information you DO NOT have”.

What a brilliant way to summarize the problems that many organizations face when making decisions. By this, I don’t just mean that they lack the data to support their decision making, I mean, they often forget to ask for the data they don’t have.

We’ve discovered that some of the poorest decisions occur because of “decisional set-up”. I’m sure many of the readers of this post don’t find themselves victim to this but let me try to describe the process:
1. The team has identified an issue and suspects they know the origins of a problem.
2. They research the answers, but find themselves looking in places that comfort their beliefs (intentionally or not).
3. They present it back to Management.

Sound familiar?

What happens next sets apart best performing teams from the rest. Winning teams deconstruct the premises of the argument, ask to look in areas where others hadn’t looked before. They don’t restrict their thinking to the data and analysis that’s available to them. They work from the problem backwards, disregarding the limits of what’s measureable and what isn’t.

Some organizations, such as the VHA, as we highlight in Drive Business Performance, go as far as creating new roles and new processes to measure the “un-mesureable”.

Have you seen this happen at your organization or else-where? What was it like? How did you handle the problem?

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