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Management Decisions for Wimps

        posted by , January 20, 2013

So you have a big management decision to make — time to hire consultants, schedule meetings, conduct studies and publish a white paper. Wait a second — are you sure you haven't already made your decision?

It's a common management mistake — validating decisions with expensive and time consuming studies that are biased and unnecessary.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to validation their decisions in a one-sided way. Examples of confirmation bias include:

- ignoring information that invalidates the decision
- biased search (seeking only information that confirms the decision)
- rewarding yes-men over critical thinkers
- interpreting evidence in a biased way
- selective memory
- wishful thinking
- studies predesigned to validate a management decision (foregone conclusions)

When confirmation bias clouds the management decision making process — the quality of decisions may drop.

The Yes Men

It is the dirty little consulting secret — tell the client what they want to hear. Often clients are not looking for new ideas (clients simply want 3rd party validation of their own strategies and approaches).

Many successful consultants are in the habit of informally polling client expectations — and making sure recommendations don't disappoint. In other words, recommendations are often fed to the consultant by the client.

Such arrangements help the client to justify their decisions and deflect blame should things go wrong. The consultant gets a pay check and a happy client.

A Better Way: Follow Your Instincts

There is nothing wrong with making a gut decision. Sometimes the only confirmation that is needed is a quick whiteboard session with your trusted advisors.

Political Considerations

Ideally, you should only do detailed validations of decisions when you lack information or insight. Confirmations should be focused on the information missing and not be overly complex or broad. However, there are times when political considerations demand needless studies.

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