Before you make that strategic decision …

Harvard Business Review article: reducing behavioural problems
Kahneman, Lovello and Sibony

HBR, in conjunction with McKinsey, have published an interesting article about reducing the impact of behavioural issues in decision making.

The underlying premise is that it is very difficult for individuals to recognise their own subconscious bias – simply put: we cannot see our own blind-spots. But we are far better at identifying those of others or of groups.

They put forward a check-list of questions that should be asked when a group is putting forward a decision recommendation. We will describe that list below. But first some commentary:

What is good about the article?

  • Anything that can help us reduce the negative impact of behaviour that we are unaware of is good. As the article says: advice up to now has been more of a case of “forewarned is forearmed” which has shown to do little to have an impact on our behaviours.
  • Using an external person to question a group is also a great idea (albeit not entirely original – Genesis have been suggesting this in one form or other for years) as it is definitely easier to see someone else’s blind spots than our own.
  • Having a check-list is a good idea and forces one to go through the appropriate disciplines of asking and challenging.
What could be improved?
  • We believe that the concept of challenging behaviours is better built into the entire decision-making process – or at least at a number of check-points along the way. Waiting until the recommendation phase is fraught with obvious problems.
  • The check-list itself should be tailored to best suit the requirements of the situation and the team involved. The generic list put forward is fine, but the emphases may well be in the wrong areas.
  • Agreeing on who should play the role of  “decision-auditor” is critical. A combination of appropriate experience (in the role), expertise in the subject matter (of behaviours and the decision context), independence and authority are all important. Just as we believe the person who ultimately takes the decision should not be the person to drive the decision process (better suited to a “decision coach”), we believe that the decision leader should also not be playing this behaviour-challenge role. After all, they have their own set of behaviours, perspectives and bias to consider.
For those of you who do not want (or do not have time) to read the article itself, here is the 12 point check-list put forward (the article has more detail behind the items as well as the rationale):
  1. Is there any reason to suspect motivated errors, or errors driven by the self-interest of the recommending team?
  2.  Have the people making the recommendation fallen in love with it?
  3. Were there dissenting opinions within the recommending team?
  4. Could the diagnosis of the situation be overly influenced by salient analogies?
  5. Have credible alternatives been considered?
  6. If you had to make this decision again in a year, what information would you want, and can you get more of it now?
  7. Do you know where the numbers came from?
  8. Can you see a halo effect?
  9. Are the people making the recommendation overly attached to past decisions?
  10. Is the base case overly optimistic?
  11. Is the worst case bad enough?
  12. Is the recommending team overly cautious?
We do not wish to appear overly critical. The article is important and timely. Furthermore, we have great respect for the authors: Daniel Kahneman particularly is a world-leader in this area. Our comments are merely to assist our clients in taking this good idea into real practice. 
The original document can be found at Harvard Business Review at:  Look before you leap
And we believe there is free access up until 4th July 2010.
If you would like to discuss how we at Genesis can help to optimise the decision making process in your organisation, please contact Simon Gifford – or have a look around our web-site at

Habit 1 of highly effective decision makers: get the basics right

Habit 1: get the basics right
The first habit in the series of
“The 7 habits of highly effective decision makers”

Following the introductory slide show, we are pleased to present the next in the series of the 7 habits of highly effective decision makers – habit 1: get the basics right.

The document briefly looks at research showing where organisations sometimes get the basics wrong in decision making. It then goes on to discuss what highly effective decision makers do to steer clear of these pitfalls, by asking (and answering) 6 key questions. Finally the slide show considers ways in which the reader may immediately apply some of these ideas to their own organisation.

We hope you both enjoy, and find value, in the presentation. Click here to download the Habit 1 slideshow.

Habit 1 Get the basics right (the 7 habits of highly effective decision makers)

If you would prefer to view the document in slideshare, it has been published at
The first habit
Or the YouTube version at The first habit


Please note: If you would like to purchase a narrated version of the original 7 Habits of Highly Effective Decision Makers overview slideshow where each page comes with a more detailed commentary, please visit our “Decision Shop” 

We are available to make this presentation to members of your organisation where we will elaborate on the slide show with further details and examples. We would also be delighted to help you implement some of the action ideas suggested at the end of the slide show. Contact Simon Gifford at to make arrangements .