A closer look at quadrant 1: small fish small pond | Few insights, more bias

We’re all faced with decisions every day. Some are easy with little impact, and some are hard with large impact. Harder decisions can affect people’s lives, organizational budgets, and the outcomes of your organization. Ideally, you’ll have the right information at the right time to make the decision. Or put another way, you’ll be able to decide at the speed of relevance.

How do you make this possible? The answer lies in our 2×2 matrix (Figure 1 – problem with being data driven matrix). In Part 0, we learned about the “problem with being data driven” matrix. We learned about the data, our perspectives, and the four quadrants. Let’s take a deep look at the first quadrant, small fish small pond. And then I’ll answer the question, why does it matter if I decide here?

Figure 1 – Problem with being data driven matrix

A quick refresher. Work built in the small fish small pond quadrant is with DATA you have access to from the PERSPECTIVE you have. For clarity on the x-axis, the term “you” encompasses you individually, your team, and your users. Individually, we’re too narrowed in our view of the world. A team from the same functional background (or industry) has a slightly broader view, but not the broadest. Our biases can take center stage and we may not even realize it. Like the name states, it’s analogous to fishing for small fish in a small pond. You get few insights. Unfortunately, you also get bias.

When deciding from this position, you may be akin to senior military leaders I’ve come across. One of which said to me, “when faced with making a decision, I only have about 20% of the information and almost zero understanding of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects”. But regardless, the officer must decide. Do you reach for more data or more perspectives? Gaining access to more data takes you from 20% to something higher, maybe 80% to mitigate the lack of data. WARNING! The temptation to go to the upper left quadrant to fill the data void will be high. Resist the temptation. Just getting more data is not the answer. Instead, moving rightward by increasing your team size will bring more perspectives (following the arrow in Figure 2 – reaching nirvana). Adding more perspectives helps reduce biases. Your new team members will also bring additional data, data pertinent to your question. We’ll explore this move in greater depth in a later article.

Figure 2 – Reaching nirvana

My personal data driven story continued

Our data driven journey began by trying to answer these questions:

1. If we had a dollar to spend, where should we spend it?
2. Do we have a 1-N list, a prioritized list for ranges?
3. If they spent that dollar, what would be the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects of that decision?

I started off with data I had access to from the perspective I had. I was fishing for small fish in a small pond. As you could probably empathize with, there wasn’t a lot I had access to. The functional community I belonged to, USAF Security Forces (SF), had an information system that held some data we needed. But that data was also lacking in breadth. To answer question 1, we had to answer question 2. We began by asking, what criteria do we need to prioritize ranges?

We quickly found we needed more complete information both within the SF functional community and others as well. Until SF could change the information system, we had to do data calls to fill in the gaps. We quickly realized we needed to collaborate with USAF Civil Engineers (CE). CE ensures the condition of ranges meets regulatory guidelines. SF focuses on operating & managing of ranges. Together we work hand in on the lifecycle management of ranges. With the relationship established, we started answering the criteria question. The expansion of our team moved us from the lower left to the lower right (following the arrow in figure 2 – reaching nirvana). Not only did we expand our perspective, but we also added relevant data sources. As we progress through the 6-part series, we’ll continue walking you through my personal data driven journey as it relates to the 2×2 matrix.

Making decisions that are time-bound and have a large impact can be tough. Doing so with limited data and perspectives is even tougher. It also increases the probability the outcome will be less than desirable. Broadening your perspective by surrounding yourself with people from different industries and life experiences increases your diversity of thought. The growing perspectives also bring new data, which brings additional context. The additional context helps improve your decision-making.

By the end of this 6-part series, you’ll have a clearer understanding of where you are today and how to get to Nirvana. The temptation may be to move to the upper left, getting more data. In the next paper, we’ll focus on the pitfalls with the data dragnet quadrant.

Jim Eselgroth

Jim Eselgroth

Deputy, Chief Technology Officer

As Definitive Logic’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Jim helps government leaders optimize mission outcomes by leveraging technology, thought leadership, and change management techniques. Jim ensures excellence in the delivery of full life-cycle digital transformation activities, long-term technology strategy and vision planning, and innovation project portfolio management. 

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