One Action, Many Decision Makers

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Watching the Bruin's recent domination of the Pitsburgh Penguins I have been impressed by the fact that they are operating as a single unit where each team members decision represents the collective direction of the team. Alternatively, when I watch the Penguin's game play it appears more like a group of individuals making independent decisions which are being passed of as group play.

One of the key organizational challenges in strategy is making sure that decisions are made as a group rather than a series of independent decisions becoming a group decision.

Let's say for example the decision to enter a new market. This action should be influenced by a number of different departments within an organization. The engineering team is likely to have input on new or improved technical features. The marketing team should have a clear understanding how the final product should be positioned or communicated to reach a given market. The executive team should have a clear understanding of the industry trends, the competition and whether or not a real opportunity exists that is both profitable and sustainable.

Without a common framework for organizing and understanding the integration between a variety of individual decisions is impossible for an organization to make the best collective decision. In system dynamics this is often referred to as “fixes that fail” for decisions that seem appropriate in a narrow context but when considered as part of a larger system lead to a less than ideal outcome.

So the question is do you have a way of considering how the key decision you're trying to make are affected by the unique and individual decisions of all the other interested parties?

For simple decisions these interrelations can be held in our head. For more complex decisions we need a cognitive aid to map and organize the complexity and to act as a coordinating vehicle in bringing together the decision makers from related but silo'ed units.

Decision analysis frameworks have been around for many decades, but not all decision analysis tools are created equal. Three elements I look for in my frameworks for managing complexity are;

A framework that is non-linear. Decisions do not proceed in a linear fashion, but are rather a set of interrelated decisions that need to be kept in balance

A framework that is founded in data. While we often do not have all the data we would desire, the process of building a framework with data assumptions sharpens thinking and helps overcome bias.

A framework that can handle a range of complexity. A framework needs to easy enough to work with that it can be utilized by non technicians, but flexible enough to model and even potentially simulate the complex interrelations of decision.

A tall order for sure. I will be writing some posts over the next month on the decision frameworks that I believe come closest to meeting these requirements.

Do you have a favorite organizational decision framework?


About Brian

Innovation & Strategy Specialist; Focus on Innovation Roadmapping & Business Modeling; Husband, Father, Systems Thinker, Babson MBA, Triathlete. View all posts by Brian →

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