Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Data Centred Decision Making

Making decisions can be tough: so many choices and no guarantees of making the right one. I’ve recently seen the decision-making process behind two decisions and both were instructive.

The first was for a social group where an interesting ethical question came up. The question and replies batted backwards and forwards. There was no right or wrong answers, but plenty of indignation and lots of opinion. Then someone sent a simple email containing the data relating to the problem. They had gone to the archives and dug up the relevant history and presented it clearly and dispassionately in an email. It was strong stuff and illustrated beautifully the uncomfortable feelings that everyone had about the dilemma. Getting the information took a bit of time but the effect was convincing and helped the group enormously.

The second was a decision at work where again feelings ran high. My co-Director had one opinion and I a different one. We discussed and argued the point but couldn’t get agreement. We decided to break the meeting to go do some research and analysis. When we came back together the decision was obvious – the data spoke volumes. We went away with a clear decision and no hard feelings.

Data centred decision making takes more effort because you have to go and get the data. Sometimes that takes quite a long time, but better decisions come out of the process. When you look at the two examples above, I think both were solved faster and more amicably by having good data.

Not all decisions lend themselves to data-centred decision making, but it’s worth asking “what data is available?” even if it only contributes to the process. Sometimes the results are surprising.

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