Assessment Rigor – A Big Opportunity for Improved Decisions

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I could talk about decision making forever (but regular readers probably know that).  I read a lot of books on decisions, my research explores them from different angles.  I'm even taking a class on decision making from the smart folks at Farnam Street.  So, I'm always interested in new research on the topic, particularly from colleagues at Gartner (side note: decision making is a hot topic across Gartner and will be a subject of a lot of focused research in the coming months and years). In this case, the study was done by my colleagues in our practices that services R&D leaders.   One of the focus areas was to understand how R&D Portfolio performance and decision quality.  There is a lot to unpack here for clients, but I'll focus on the biggest highlights for me. First, the team analyzed specific markers that impacted decision quality.   The biggest driver is strategic clarity, which I would think comes as no surprise.   That is followed by a number of other factors that have similar impacts, with the largest of this group being assessment rigor.   Additionally, some factors were found not to impact decision quality. Beyond identifying the markers, the team also explored performance against those markers by the R&D organizations that participated.    Strategic clarity was handled pretty well--so even while it is the most important--the need for improvement is lower.   The more markers an organization outperforms likely, the more likely you are to outperform on decision quality (with a big jump when you outperform on 4 or 5 markers).   But the marker with the biggest opportunity for improvement -- Assessment Rigor. Assessment rigor, which is where I will focus, was defined as: Routine reassessments of project success likelihood when assumptions change Pressure testing the quality of data used for decisions Willingness to explore difficult questions about the project Stress-testing across market and value chain scenarios Willingness to explore multiple alternatives Frequent exploration of different scenarios All of these ideas are not just relevant for R&D decisions, but for any complex decision, like say, a major technology purchase or outsourcing decision (you see where I am going now).   You don't make better decisions with shortcuts, particularly complex decisions.  You explore from various angles and factors, playing out scenarios and exploring alternatives.  Doing so makes for better, more confident decisions.   On the surface, it may seem like more work and more time.   But often, it helps avoid surprise delays and frustrations-issues that destroy confidence. Take a hard look at your decision efforts.   Are you being as rigorous in your assessments as you could be?  As you should be?   Improve that and combine it with some of the other areas that should also be helped (e.g. information quality) to get better decisions--and better results.

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