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A Former CIA Executive’s Advice On How To Make Hard Decisions | The future of business
05.28.15 | Fast Company | BY STEPHANIE VOZZA.
A Former CIA Executive’s Advice On How To Make Hard Decisions
A five-step decision-making process from a man who spent 25 years making life-and-death decisions.
(1) Question
(2) Drivers
(3) Metrics
(4) Data
(5) What's Missing/Blind Spots

Questions are NOT self-evident, says Mudd. Focusing on better questions up front yields better answers later.
“Good questions are hard to come up with,” he says. Delay data gathering and the conclusions.... think about exactly what it is we want to know..... Start with what you’re trying to accomplish and work your way back, instead of moving forward and making conclusions. The right question provides a decision advantage to the person at the head of the table.

Break down complex questions into characteristics or “drivers.” This approach gives you a way to manage data.
For example, sort data on Al Qaeda into information baskets that included money, recruits, leadership, communications, training, and access to weapons. When information flows in, rather than adding it to one unmanageable pile, sorting through it periodically, and offering a recitation of what appears to be relevant from the most recent stuff you’ve seen, file each bit into one of your baskets. Limit your drivers to 10.

Identify the metrics you’ll use to measure how the problem and solution are evolving over time.
What are the right metrics?
What are the new information sources and metrics?
Compare your thought process to the training process of an Olympic sprinter who measures success in hundredths of a second. “If we don’t, the analysis we provide will suffer the same fate as a sprinter who thinks he’s great but has never owned a stopwatch: he enters an elite competition, and reality intervenes,” Metrics provide a “mind mirror”–a system for judging your decisions. It provides a foundation for coming back to the table and assessing the process for success.

Once you’ve built the framework that will help you make the hard decision, it’s time to gather the data. Overcome data overload by plugging data into their driver categories and excising anything that doesn’t fit. “Too much data might provide a false sense of security, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to clearer analytic decision making,”

Avoud intuition. It’s dangerous. Aggressively question the validity of your data. Once you have your data sorted, give yourself a grade that represents your confidence in assessing your question.

Complex analysis isn’t easy. Assume that the process is flawed and check for gaps and errors. Three common stumbling blocks are:

Availability bias: The instinct to rely on what you know or what has been most recently in the news.
Halo effect: When you write off the negative characteristics because you’re mesmerized by the positive attributes.
Intuitive versus analytic methodologies: when you go with your gut. Relying on intuition is dangerous.

Mudd says making complex decisions is hard work. “It’s a lot of fun to be an expert who bases their ideas on history and not a lot of fun to be an analyst who must always be assessing potential scenarios,” he says. “Every time you go into a problem, and before you rip into data, ask yourself, ‘Am I sure where I’m heading?’”
asking_the_right_questions  availability_bias  biases  decision_making  false_sense_of_security  gut_feelings  halo_effects  hard_choices  intuition  intelligence_analysts  life-and-death  metrics  Philip_Mudd  problem_definition  organizing_data  problem_framing  sorting  thinking_backwards 
october 2017 by jerryking
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