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Fact Based Decision-Making

Fact Based Decision-Making

Organizations of all sizes and types will often succeed or fail on the quality of their decision-making. This is a situation that has always been the case historically and is just as true today, despite the widespread availability of technology to aid decision-making.

Decision makers rely on hard data, soft data, assumptions, anecdotal experience and the occasional hunch when selecting from a range of available options. But in order to have sound judgment research suggests that all of these inputs are not equivalent and we need to learn to put more emphasis on facts (hard ones like figures where we can and soft ones like corroborated observations if we need to). In other words, we need to adopt a fact-based decision-making approach

As the term implies, fact-based decision making involves putting considerable initial emphasis on the gathering of facts, figures, data and evidence. This is mainly done at the first stage of the often cited 4-step decision-making process of 1. Establishing the issue, 2. Weighing of considering the possibilities, 3. Interpreting and Sifting the options and finally 4. Making a final judgment or Deciding. However, it is important to maintain focus on the facts at all four stages as unsupported assumptions and untested intuition can come to dominate the thinking as time goes by in many situations. In fact, we need to carefully guard against many thinking biases such as those shown in the table below:

Search for supportive evidence Willingness to gather facts which lead toward certain conclusions and to disregard other facts which threaten them
Inconsistency Inability to apply the same decision criteria in similar situations
Conservatism Failure to change (or changing slowly) one’s own mind in light of new information/evidence
Recency The most recent events dominate those in the less recent past, which are downgraded or ignored.
Availability Reliance upon specific events easily recalled from memory, to the exclusion of other pertinent information.
Anchoring Predictions are unduly influenced by initial information which is given more weight in the forecasting process.
Illusory correlations Belief that patterns are evident and/or two variables are causally related when they are not.
Selective perception A tendency to see problems in terms of a particular person’s own background and experience
Optimism, without thinking People’s preferences for future outcomes affect their forecasts of such outcomes.
Underestimating uncertainty Excessive optimism, illusory correlation and the need to reduce anxiety can easily result in underestimating future uncertainty.

As a quick summary, we can all use the following simple fact orientated decision-making approach wherever we have a complex or difficult decision to make:

  • Clarify the decision that needs to be taken and why it needs to be taken;
  • Consider the stakeholders in a decision – identify their requirements;
  • Determine criteria for making a decision with respect to stakeholder requirements;
  • Brainstorm alternative decisions, and test outcomes in terms of costs, benefits and risks;
  • Rank alternatives using established or agreed criteria;
  • Bring in emotions and opinions as necessary with care (and as much corroboration as possible);
  • Consult stakeholders where appropriate;
  • Decide on the evidence collated;
  • Communicate decision to stakeholders;
  • Implement/Execute the decision.
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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. Simon WarnerFebruary 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

    this is an interesting piece that really captures the subject well.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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