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Decision Making

A recent survey of Signal AI interviewed 1,000 C-suite executives in the U.S. for the study. The report found 85% of respondents estimate upwards of $4.26 trillion in revenue is being lost because organizations lack the ability to make the best decisions in a timely manner.

What are the significant barriers to decision making?

44% Overwhelming amounts of data
21% Not enough time
16% Stakeholder alignment

While deep learning is extremely valuable, and algorithms are fast, tunable and mathematically agile, they will likely not provide for pragmatic reasoning or contextual awareness. Bad problem/data sets and correlated results often mis-predict patterns and probabilities.

So when you’ve got a difficult question to answer, should you consult multiple experts to get their personal opinions or ask a group to deliberate together? Studies on the concept of collective intelligence suggest that when appropriately managed, asking a group can lead to more accurate quantitative estimates than simply averaging the recommendations of multiple independent advisors. Research also suggests that while collective group quantification can indeed increase the accuracy of predictions, it can also lead you astray when it comes to making qualitative decisions requiring subjective evaluation of what we think and know.

Good decision-making requires incredible self-awareness and pragmatism to combat biases, group think, hyperbolic discounting, anchoring, and our tendency not to rethink the painful problem space before jumping into rewarding solutions. Separating personal truths from political narratives to find the objective realities is hard. Starting with first principles may help.

First Principle Thinking

Influencing others is a critical skill everyone should try to master. You will need to take this to an art form as a product manager who typically has no authority and often minimal social capital. Practice is critical and one of the best ways to practice is Toastmasters.

Reexploring your Horizons

It is rare to find companies with an infinite mindset willing to embrace product pipeline vitality, flywheel funding and courage to solve the Innovators Dilemma. So many corporations are focused purely on competitive threats and executing to deliver solutions. Moving beyond Horizon #1 is not even a consideration. Of course, if you can not achieve your Horizon #1 business goals, then looking beyond that is not likely the best problem for you to solve. So while the pandemic has refocused some on inclussion, and others on resiliency/sustainability, it may be time to re-explore your horizons.

Prioritization Methods

Prioritizing is one of the most important skills of any organization or team. This is one of my favorite all time blog post comparing some of the more popular methodologies. Give it a read then discuss why your preferred method is best for your team, stakeholders and business. Also keep in mind weighting or correlating business priorities to prevent stakeholder alignment issues. If you are starting a new project or assembling a new team, put the Theory of Constraints aside and start with easy momentum builders.

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Do we overvalue speed?

Agile scrum artifacts are information that a scrum team and stakeholders use to detail the deliverables, actions to produce them, and the activities performed during the project.

We are guided by Agile Manifesto – Working software over comprehensive documentation. Justified by equivocating from the 12 agile principles.

Many have taken this to extremes, excluding high-level software designs and even release notes to get a product to market. There are circumstances when you may want to rethink the level of documentation you are providing. Do you have single points of failure in your organization that hold critical knowledge? Have you ever thought about the amount of time spent reverse engineering handoffs? Or how many times you have heard a software engineer state, “It would be easier to rewrite this thing than figure out how it works.” These are all considerations towards making an informed decision on if you are overvaluing time to market and undervaluing documentation.

This does not apply to Minimal Viable Products, Prototypes, or Proof on Concepts.

Is it time for a serious talk, or an organizational physiologist?

Have you ever felt like no matter how hard your team is working, you can never get ahead of the fire drills? Does it feel like your retrospectives are not really working? There may be a good reason for this, and it’s called debt. Some debt can be burned off, but debt can also compounds and impact your quality, responsiveness, productivity and cycle time. It’s hard not to focus resources just on quick wins or your backlog, but it can pay to take a longer view beyond your burn down chart.

Debunking the 10,000 hour rule

Check out the book “Range” for a deeper dive on why and when generalists beat out a specialist. A truly insightful selection of how our minds process patterns, deal with cognitive entrenchment, and learn.

The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyperspecialization.