A closer look at quadrant 3: A fishing trip with friends | More insights, less bias

Making tough decisions can be a lonely act but preparing for it doesn’t have to be. The opportunity to ensure you can answer the question and understand the effects of a decision can increase. How do we increase our understanding of the effects? The answer lies in our 2×2 matrix (Figure 1 – problem with being data driven matrix | outcomes). On our journey to being data driven, we learned that going for all the data is an anti-pattern. Instead, moving right is not an anti-pattern and is a positive step towards reaching Nirvana. Let’s look deeper at the 3rd quadrant, a fishing trip with friends. And then I’ll answer the question, why does it matter if you decide here?

To bring yourself up to speed please read:

Part 0
Part 1
Part 2

Figure 1 – Problem with being data driven matrix

We’re now in the lower-right quadrant. “Friends” includes your team, colleagues, and stakeholders (Figure 2 – problem with being data driven matrix | analogy). When making a tough decision, it’s better to have “friends” help you gauge your response. The “friends” can also help you understand the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects of your decisions before you make them.

A quick refresher. Work here is built by increasing your perspectives. Increase perspectives by expanding your team to include:

cross-functional members
other demographic groups
people from outside your enterprise, especially those who might be affected by the results of your work.

Figure 2 – Problem with being data driven matrix | analogy

Expanding your perspectives results in more insights and less bias. Bias is reduced because of the additional perspectives. Your perspective is your reality. We know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. As a result, we all have biases. When you bring other people with different life experiences, they help bring unique perspectives and their biases. When more people come together, we can become more aware of our biases. As a result, the overall bias of the team can be reduced.

If you decide in this quadrant, you’ll have more perspectives and therefore less bias. Your awareness is growing, you have an increased understanding, possible answers, and what the effects of the decision might be. Although your context has increased because you’ve increased perspective and reduced bias, you haven’t reached the greatest context, because you haven’t tapped into all the data.

• Increasing perspectives by expanding your team, ideally including1:

1. subject matter experts from other fields (HR, finance, operations, etc.)
2. end users
3. risk management professionals
4. legal counsel
5. individuals affected by the decisions
6. and others

• Improving insights by learning about each other’s perspectives through discussion questions like these2:

1. Is the way I’m thinking helpful? Will it bring about the desired change?
2. What are some other points of view? How might the other person think or feel about this?
3. If I look at the bigger/smaller picture, does my perspective change?

• Mitigating biases by learning about each other’s biases through reflection questions like:

1. What has formed my implicit biases?3
Do I interact with people that have lived different experiences than me?4
What are the cognitive biases I’ve used? Overconfidence Bias? Anchoring Bias? Confirmation Bias? Hindsight Bias? Representative Bias? Availability Bias?5

The best approach to obtaining the answers to these questions is by facilitating regular discussions with your team. The facilitation helps validate the people, perspectives, and biases by bringing to light where there are similarities, differences, and gaps. During the discussions, you’ll gain an understanding of the perspectives and biases you have and the perspectives and biases you don’t have. This information can be helpful in finding additional people with perspectives you’re missing or moving forward knowing there is a gap. An example of facilitating this exercise is Consequence Scanning6. Consequence Scanning is executed alongside other agile practices, iteratively. It’s a best practice that dedicates time and attention to considering the potential consequences of the entire life cycle for what you’re creating.

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?

In the prior part of my story, I talked about going for all the data and it was futile. Instead, now in the 3rd quadrant, we deconstructed the problem. Focusing on the major stakeholders that are impacted by the outcome of ranges. This approach led us to be more selective of the data we needed and ensures we had the right perspective. As you probably know, as you obtain more data and perspectives, you get increased context which gives you deeper questions.

For instance, we had shown the Status of Ranges dashboard with some of the results we were seeing to the AFIMSC Commander. As a result, she asked, “what is the capacity of our ranges?” and “have we exceeded our capacity?”. Her perspective brought a new layer of context. She wouldn’t have known to ask it had we not shown her the data we had. Her new questions, coupled with the original drove us to bring in additional SMEs from various other functional communities and their data (Civil engineering, Financial, Human Capital, etc.).

During my journey, we were progressing. We were increasing our perspectives, but we hadn’t answered the questions to a satisfactory level. Therefore, onward to Nirvana. 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 is tough. Making decisions with limited perspectives can lead to unintended consequences. Making decisions without mitigating our biases will only exasperate the unintended consequences. Adding more perspectives and mitigating your biases will improve your decisions. Now that you have expanded your team, we can move upward to the final quadrant. In our next article, we’ll take a deep look at the 4th quadrant, Nirvana.

1GAO-21-519SP Artificial Intelligence Accountability Framework

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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