Skip to main content

Is it possible to make objective decisions?

Do you think you make objective decisions?   Most people are adamant that they do, but I am becoming more and more aware of the influences that move me in particular directions, and am working to be more structured in approaching final decisions.

It constantly amazes me how many people honestly believe that any decision is better than none, and that changing your mind is a sign of indecisiveness and weakness.   Frequently, decisions are made based on the current information at hand, and when more becomes available, people believe it is too late to change direction.   Sometimes it is, lets face it, once a rocket has launched, new information can't bring it back, but there are many, many times when a decision is manipulated by interested parties, and the final decision maker believes that he will look weak if he goes back on his word, in spite of knowing that an alternative might very well be a better option.

It is true, though, that slow decision making can hamper growth as well as cause huge frustration, as we are an impatient bunch when the decision isn't ours to make, nor to bear the responsibility for failure.

No easy solution, but I find my best decisions are made when I don't jump in or get pressured by the lobbyists.   One of the best things about working at +Accsys is how passionate everybody is about the client experience and the products.   It is also one of the more challenging aspects as we tend to get quite intense and want to solve problems instantly.

Objective decision making should be a daily business objective.

Not always attainable, but always top of mind.

Without getting too deep into the psychology side, reading about confirmation bias has made me work harder on my objectivity and try to recognise my prejudices and subjectivity when making decisions. These range from hiring employees, purchasing (or personal shopping, much as I would prefer to just buy without analysing my motives) to dealing with bad debt and sales negotiations.

The 4 Card Test

Peter Wason coined the term confirmation bias and developed the 4 Card Test which indicated that most people will select the information that confirms their belief rather than the information which could contradict it.   When making objective decisions it is therefore critical to look at the issue from all angles, and get input from people who might have a different set of values and decision making criteria.

A major blow to objectivity is that we believe that success breeds success, and failure therefore has to breed failure.   And we look to confirm this prejudice which can set people and projects up for failure before they even start.   However, when we study some of the world's most successful people, they have risen from failure over and over.  Abraham Lincoln is a great case study for this.

Of course, we have to learn from history, and we need to address reasons for failure, but we should never assume the continuity of failure.   We often learn more from the things that go wrong than from the things that go right.   However, when making decisions, we regularly assume that if something went right, the underlying processes must have been correct.   Confirmation bias has kicked in, that's what we want to believe.

Objective decisions require a calm, cool, analytical approach and should include:

  • Gathering as much information as is possible
  • Analysing the information
  • Confirming whether any of the decision makers have skin in the game ie will they benefit personally from the decision?
  • Weighing up the alternative options
  • Selecting a path and then
  • Communicating the decision and the reasons behind it, so that all the stakeholders are on board.
  • Developing a contingency plan if the decision turns out to be less than ideal.
If possible, there should always be a Plan B, not to be a fence sitter, but for deeply practical reasons.



“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Thomas A. Edison



Popular posts from this blog

Agile workers & workspaces - a new way of working..

Being an agile worker is still a work in progress…
Is flexibility now a reality in the workplace?And is it really working? We keep renaming it – remote, activity based and agile work being some of the current terms. The assumption of control over one’s own time and deliverables does look like a great way to work and live, and it seems to be is a high priority for those entering the business world. There is also the development of the agile work space, where people come to the office each day, but don’t have a fixed work area.We used to call it hot desking back in the day and it met with mixed success.Today, office designers have started to create work spaces which are intended to encourage innovative thought, cross departmental collaboration and improved productivity. My research indicates that the mix of engaged and disengaged employees in an open plan workspace does not always have the desired effect of the positive workers influencing the culture.In fact, a case study of a senior execut…

It's Not Your Fault, But..

It’s Not Your Fault, But…
Its’s not mine, either. When something goes wrong, whether at work or home, most people immediately start casting around for somebody to blame. Over the weekend, I was reading and drinking a cup of coffee which was perched on the arm of the couch.  I do this daily, and have never spilled it.   My daughter came into the room, I put my reader down next to me and we started chatting.  A little later, I picked the reader up, turned to my coffee, and knocked it over.  Something in my expression caused her to ask whether it was her fault.  Of course, it wasn’t, but a mean, small part of me was thinking, well, no, but if you hadn’t come in the room…  And she was kind enough to help me clear it up!
If that lamp post wasn’t there If that faster person wasn’t in the race If the traffic light hadn’t turned red at just that moment If we hadn’t hired Joe, I would have got the promotion If, if, if….. We are very quick to accept the “if” when it is about us, and much slower to do so…

Setting Budgets and Targets

Does too much of a stretch impact motivation?    Over many years of setting (and trying to achieve) targets and budgets, getting the balance right between stretch and motivation remains a challenge.

I love Jim Collins and Jerry Porras and their BHAGs in their great book, Built to Last, but if the goals are seen as unachievable too early in the business year, what then?

Is there a way for businesses to achieve success without budgets and targets in place?

Two old favourites " You can only manage what you can measure" and "People do what managers measure" suggest that they can't.  I am sure there must be successful businesses with different methodologies, but most of us need to work towards something.

With that in mind, I think there needs to be stretch, and there needs to be a sense of achievability.

Why would you race against Usain Bolt unless you think you could win?

The same goes for budgets and targets, people need to believe they are possible.

So how do you…