At Bridgeport Digital, when we handle our decision-making, we use this tool called the 10-10-10 rule. This rule pertains to the decision we’re thinking about, what are the consequences in ten seconds, ten months, and 10 years. As a consequence, this makes us think about the short-term consequences and the long-term consequences. The lower the assessment of the information collected, the lower the timebox should be for making a decision (if the consequences aren’t far reaching). If you forget about the consequences in 10 minutes, then you should spend little to zero time making that decision. In fact, managers should enforce this.
Let’s talk about the more practical things we should be doing in order to improve our decisions. First, we should figure out the criteria we will use to make decisions in advance of the decision itself. When I determine that criteria, what we should do is make the criteria and the assessment of the criteria (of the different options) public.
Why do we want to make it public?
We have inherited biases which consist of opinions, worldviews, and irrelevant information that’s unhelpful for decision-making. The best way to get rid of biases is to make the information available and accessible for everyone to make comments on anonymously. That way people will be more likely to comment if there are no consequences for doing so.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu
Let’s talk about the show, “WhoWants to Be a Millionaire.” Most often, players choose the option that asks the audience. Individual audience members may have been incorrect but as a whole the majority of the audience chooses the right answer. Which is why at Bridgeport Digital we use “the wisdom of the crowd” in decision-making. The more you open the criteria to multiple people, the more you eliminate individual biases and the average of the group.
After we’ve determined our criteria in advance, we have the people that will judge the criteria, the decision-makers, determine the criteria independently. Only after they’ve assessed everything independently will they form a conclusion and come together to assess it. We do this because one of the bigger biases we counteract at Bridgeport is called an anchoring bias. People tend to form snap judgements based on little information once they make a judgment about something. For instance, if there was a boy that stood at my front door, asking me if he could date my daughter, I’d form a judgment. This boy must move heaven and earth to change my judgment, I anchor myself to that assessment no matter what. So if you want to make better decisions, delay any judgment for as long as possible. Make this a process for judging things with transparency.
In addition, we talk about delaying judgment. Delay decisions until the last responsible moment. At the last responsible moment, if I delay it anymore, there will be negative consequences. So delaying decisions, in the course of attending to other things, sometimes we come up with additional information that will help. The next thing we do is shape the environment for feedback. Most people are bad at giving feedback, so when it’s time to give feedback (because they haven’t been trained properly) the way they give it pushes the decision-maker towards making the incorrect decision. There are many reasons this can happen; we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, we're concerned that the feedback might be taken the wrong way, we forget to give positive feedback, or we simply don’t know how to approach it. What we need to do is shape the environment to make it easier to receive feedback. This means making sure that people who need feedback, identify who they need feedback from and specify exactly what kind of feedback they want.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” - Lao Tzu
There are many times I come across emails that will ask, “What do you think of this?” or “What is your opinion?” If I’m not an expert in the particular area they’re asking about, I shouldn’t be the one to give feedback or an opinion on it. For example, my wife is a doctor. Hence, others shouldn’t ask for my opinion on anything medical. Instead, they should be asking my wife. However, anything IT related or strategy related, is my area of expertise, and so, this is the area others can ask for my feedback. Again, the feedback we ask for needs to be specified along with the format; people can only consume information in certain formats. This is something that should be discussed in advance. It’s important to make sure the documentation is open to feedback. Timebox your decision, only allow enough time as necessary depending on how important the decision is.
The last thing I’d like to talk about are retrospective and prospective. Oftentimes, people don’t hold retrospectives. There are things that people fail to do, such as, assessing the risk involved and estimating the value of the different possible consequences. Furthermore, we only get better at giving and receiving feedback when we practice it. It’s extremely important to have a retrospective so we can make an assessment, make some decisions, and collect data around this information to see how well we’ve done and why (whether or not we’ve done well) after estimating and decision-making. If we talk about it, we make it possible to figure out different ways to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, if we don’t make time to do this, we won’t learn anything and our estimation will continue to fail while we make bad decisions. There were studies done for software developers and what they found out is that the singular subject to irrelevant data is that you can ask the same developer for an estimate today and ask them for the same estimate tomorrow. Studies show that the difference in the estimates is 71%, they could be off on their estimate. In other words, they said it would take one day today and two days tomorrow; this isn’t right because it would make you form an entirely new decision. Consequently, it’s important to have retrospectives to monitor these things accordingly.
“When you prohibit failure, you kill innovation.” - Dan Pallotta
With that being said, prospectives are even more important than retrospectives are. Prospectives are about looking at things in the beginning; forecasting the way I think things will go and what I want to do is compare this to the way things actually went. This gives us lots of data to improve our skill set in decision-making.