Throwing Down The Gauntlet

Media197Talk to almost anyone who does what we do for a living here at Decision Strategies, and you will often hear consternation at why the practice of decision analysis (DA, also called decision science) hasn’t caught on across a broader spectrum of industries.  Sure, a few industries like oil & gas and pharmaceutical R&D have adopted it as best practice, but the principles apply across any endeavor in which decisions must be made in complex situations (and these days, that’s almost any strategic endeavor).  So why isn’t everyone using it?

There are probably a number of reasons for this.  First, there’s the name:  Decision Analysis.  It sounds like the decision maker’s equivalent of the IRS, here to audit your decision and tell you what you’ve done wrong.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  DA is all about looking forward, not backward.  The name also emphasizes the “analysis” part of the process, when the fact is that getting a problem framed up correctly is usually more important than the type of analysis performed to evaluate the strategic alternatives.

The second problem:  try walking up to a Senior Vice President of a company and telling him or her that you can help them make better decisions.  See what kind of reaction you get.  It’s likely to be something along the lines of, “How do you think I got here?  I am good at making decisions.  If you were as good at making decisions as I am, you’d be on this side of the desk.”  And they’re probably correct; the vast majority of senior executives are good at making decisions.

But even Willie Mays had a batting coach.  That coach didn’t have Mays’s reflexes, instincts, or ability, and certainly couldn’t hit like Willie.  But he knew what good hitting looked like, and could give Mays feedback on his stance, how he held his hands, etc.  The coach could help Mays to see things that he could not otherwise see simply because he could not step outside himself and get a view from a different perspective.iStock_000032567130_XXXLarge.jpg

We who are decision professionals are like the batting coach.  We don’t claim to be better at making decisions than our clients (if we were, we probably would be sitting on the other side of the desk).  But we know the characteristics of a good decision process:  the clear understanding of the tradeoffs between objectives, the consideration of a wide variety of strategic alternatives, the appropriate characterization of uncertainty and how it affects the likely outcomes.  We are adept at using a number of tools and techniques to help the decision maker (actually, usually a team reporting to the decision maker) to sift through the fog of noise surrounding any complex situation and ensure that they have as clear an understanding of that situation as possible so the decision can be made on as informed a basis as possible.  We don’t provide the solution; we help the executive and her team to develop the solution.  The responsibility and the right to make the decision always rests with the decision maker.

Third, there are widespread misperceptions about the scalability of DA.  Many people think that using a structured approach to making decisions will take a lot of time and manpower.  If DA is implemented properly, this simply isn’t the case.  Sometimes a fairly in-depth quantitative analysis may be needed, but often the team can gain the clarity they need within just a few hours or days.  We recently posted a video on YouTube in which I explain why the notion that DA takes a long time and costs a lot of money is misguided.  Most of the time, a two-day framing workshop is all a problem needs.  A couple of our consultants even developed a set of tools for one client’s procurement group to apply the principles of DA very quickly – within hours – to decisions they had to make every day.

However, some people may remain unconvinced, so we are throwing down the proverbial gauntlet, putting our money where our mouth is, and several other clichés, too.Media487

If you’ve got a problem you’ve been struggling with or an opportunity that is so complex that you’re feeling overwhelmed, give us two days.  Let us facilitate your team through a two-day framing workshop, and we will get you to where you can confidently plan how to move forward to achieve your goals.  If you aren’t satisfied with the progress your team makes by the end of the workshop, just tell us why, and we will refund our fee in full.  Your only cost will be to cover our travel expenses, if any.

What have you got to lose?

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