How do You Lead Your Team to Make Better Decisions

I recently saw a post by David Lancefield in which this ladder appeared. It interested me enough to go to the site to look around. And David’s work inspired me to think through it for myself.

As individuals, we all make decisions all of the time. So let us focus on team or group decisions in this article.

As you can see there are 7 steps on the ladder. To me, that indicates that there are 6 steps before action. Each one helps move the team along.

The first thing is first, we must get data. It could be that data already exists or we have to gather it. At this point, we have to ask ourselves if that data matches the observable reality, OR has the world changed since it was gathered?

Most data is raw and often has missing values and repeated entries. So a bit of clean-up is always needed. Now, maybe your data has 30 variables but only 2–3 are key and account for 90% of your results. Should we exclude the other variables? Maybe there are other sources that we have not even tapped? Maybe we should look for those? ARe beliefs and past experiences creating a bias to what we selected? That is the second rung.

Once you are happy that the data reflects the observed reality and it is good quality data, we need to analyze it. The ladder shows this as the third step, Interpretations. What does the data mean? Is there one model that best fits it? What is that model? AT this point we are trying to extract information from that data. Are we looking at that data objectively? Would a different model be more appropriate? Are we overfitting the data and making sure that in the future it will fail to predict any test data?

Be careful because humans like to give perceived facts meaning. It is a shortcut device for us. The fact might not be a fact but we are treating it as it is a fact.

At this point, we want to pause. As we were going through this we made an assumptions-fourth step. Are those still valid? DO you remember why you assumed those in the first place? (Recently this was true for one of my projects and affected finding a better solution before removing one of the assumptions).

At this point, your team has enough data and has done some analysis to start believing into a certain solution must be the right solution. In the fifth step, we must question our conclusions. Why did we conclude this? Did we cherry-pick the data to conclude this? Are we comfortable with the assumptions that are left? Would you bet the success of the project on this conclusion?

The sixth step is a bit of self-reflection. Your team has come up with these conclusions. What do you as an individual believe to be true? Are you comfortable with what the conclusions are based on? Are the shared beliefs supported by data or are they still opinions?

If you have worked your way up the ladder to the last rung you are ready to take action. This is difficult for many teams because there is a risk that all the work is flawed and you could make a mistake.

You must trust yourself that you did the best work to gather the data, analyze it, and draw conclusions from it that make the action the right one to take based on what we believe to be true. You must trust your ability to adapt if the action was wrong. Being adaptive is the key to ultimate survival and success. It is not always making the perfect decision. This seldom happens.

Pull the trigger. Do not allow paralysis by analysis to stop you from moving forward. That takes guts!!!

My four cents…



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Robert Trajkovski

Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.