söndag 15 januari 2017


I am reading up on Satisficing, a decision making strategy that aims at satisfying a need but just sufficiently. It seems like we, when making decisions, often go through a list of options until we see one that we believe meets our needs, given our mental models about needs and how the options will work out. We simply tend pick the first match.

Evaluation of options is hard mental work, and making decisions takes a toll on our psychological motivation. Therefore there will be fewer people who opt for trying to analyze all available options before making a decision (as a believer of rational choice theory would assume they do), and more people who are seeking an easier way out by evaluating as few options as possible (a behavior more in line with what proponents of choice theories of psychological realism believe).

We also have the systemic effect of weeding out those who tries to analyze every option when there is no complete list of options to choose from. They will never be included in the count of decision makers since they are stuck with analyzing. So when we are dependent on other people making a decision, we can expect that they for the most part are using a satisficing strategy.

What does that teach us?

First of all the importance of mental models when understanding your own needs and how they might be met. People will pick the first option that they believe will fix things according to their understanding of the situation. The way we talk about things, frame situations, use illustrations and parables will totally determine what options we pick. Make sure that the mental models reflect the actual situation.

Then that the order of presentation is very important. Any option higher up in the list will have a higher chance of being chosen, regardless of its effectiveness compared to the other options further down. So if we want to increase the chance of picking an effective solution to a problem we have, we should first try to quantify, or at least rank, the effectiveness of them before picking one.

And last but not least: since we use this and other decision making strategies that works against making optional choices, we can assume that our decisions will be bad. We can try to become better at it, but we must realize that we will make the wrong choices from time to time. So we have to employ strategies that reduce the bad consequences of a bad decision.

Here the preferences from agile decision making comes handy!

In agile, we try to make it small before making it big. Everything should be seen as an experiment that we run for a limited time, and then we can make a better decision whether we should continue or not. Is this good enough for now, and is it safe enough to try?

We will also try to optimize for options when we decide. Given two paths, if we chose the one that has many branches ahead we can always change course as we learn more about our goal and how the reality works. Making definitive decisions early on when we have access to very little information may sound cool and you feel like a Powerful Leader when you do it, but it isn't really the most effective thing to do. Maintain your flexibility at all times.

The journey to value creation is a journey of insights. What we grow together is the body of knowledge. When we investigate our options we should look out for the options that gives us the most learning opportunities. If it is impossible to be sure that we have picked the right option, it becomes very important to quickly learn if our chosen path was the wrong one to take. That will increase the chance of making the next step on the journey better.

And when evaluating and learning, remember the words of Deming: "Without data you're just another person with an opinion". But also from the same man: "The most important things cannot be measured", and "The most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable".

Happy decision making!

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