Mitigating Decision-making Errors Along a Transformation Journey

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In Part A of this two-part article on decision-making errors, the main categories and types of decision and judgement errors were reviewed along with some associated logic fallacies.

 So What?

Two practical questions emerge. First, what can we do to improve our judgement? A combination of antidotes is often recommended to mitigate the untoward effects of these decision traps: being humble and aware, knowing yourself and knowing others, and following a process are the top three. The first, being aware, is like telling a pitcher to “throw strikes” (well-intended, but not of great practical help – this is what the pitcher is trying to do but it does not help him/her do it!). The second, to know oneself, is harder than diamonds and steel, according to Benjamin Franklin. The third, following a process, offers the most tangible promise for something we can actually do that can consistently make a difference. 

One tool to do this is to post in the meeting/board room a list of typical decision errors. Then, after an orientation to the definitions and examples, commit to making sure that, for any significant decision, team members review and call out for which of the ‘traps’ the team is most at risk. Campbell, Whitehead, & Finkelstein, in their HBR article ‘Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions,’ call these “red flag conditions.” They assert that we analyze situations using pattern recognition and attaching emotional tags to arrive at a decision to act or not. But because we tend to do the two processes almost instantaneously (instead of sequentially), our brains leap to conclusions and are reluctant to consider alternatives, as researcher Gary Klein has shown. And we are particularly bad at revisiting our initial “frame” or assessment of a situation. For those ‘red flags’ identified by the team, the team could then refer to a set of remedies/mitigations. These include involving a more independent source, clarifying the relevance of existing (or identifying needed) information, referring to a higher/governing group, etc. The nature of the process should result in a “pause and shift gears” awareness and action. Read Full Article.