Facts. At SIG, we love and cherish them. They’re what we build our business around. However, anybody that has ever read Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, knows that the mind is a fickle thing and can be easily fooled. We know for a fact that we’re often wrong in our assumptions, or we arrive at the right conclusion based on the wrong argumentation. Our mind tends to generalize, assume and conclude with speed on things to save us the effort of being 100% sure all the time, when 80% is good enough. And, although for day-to-day life, this approach seems to work well, when it comes to highly complex and technical business decisions and situations, the cost of being wrong can run into the millions.
At SIG, we’re often asked to help out in situations where the stakes are high and the situation is complex. There are multiple stakeholders with their own goals and their own view of the world. This is good, as viewpoints from various people and roles can and should differ in many occasions. It’s what brings diversity to an organization, and in large part, fuels creativity and fosters a holistic approach to tackling challenges. When it comes to the important decisions, however, you want to ensure that the complete team is playing on the same field and understands the same rules. Although this sounds like an open door, it generally is not.
As described in the opening statement, we all act based on our own understanding of the situation. We argue that our approach is right, which can lead to heated discussions and debate. A favorite statement of mine, “The fact of the matter is ….” is often a realization point for people in a discussion that they don’t all have the same facts to go on. And whereas interpretations of facts can still differ based on context and experience, having the same facts to start with helps to align viewpoints and allows people to make a sensible, informed decision – something you strive for in every business decision you make.
When helping our clients, we therefore try to live up to quality Principle #3: My Findings are Fact-Based. That’s making sure everyone involved has the same basic view of the world upon which to act. How can you ensure that your findings are fact-based, and therefore indisputable? We generally look at four elements when reviewing our own work:
- Quantified – Make your point specific. Use numbers and percentages. Stay away from vague terms (i.e. “large”).
- Factual – Measure first, and state clearly what you assume, guess, estimate or have an (expert) opinion about.
- Internally consistent – Don’t contradict yourself. If your findings contradict themselves, it means you’re not done digging.
- Sourced – Be clear about where you got your information, so that it can be verified.
Aside from the fact that all SIG analysis and advice is based on scientifically proven models, we’ve experienced that two process elements in our approach to client assignments really help us in getting the above four guidelines right.
First, we follow a structured approach. Call it the SIG manner of working, the SIGnature delivery method, or just the rigor of applying the previous knowledge we have obtained. By sticking rigorously to a structured approach and putting earlier lessons into models and capabilities, we’re able to keep the quality of our work high and make sure that we’re consistently applying our analysis to the problem at hand.
Second, the concept of “fair hearing” plays a pivotal role in our delivery process. We always validate our findings with relevant stakeholders. By engraining this into our process with specific Technical and Risk validation sessions, we’re ensuring that we first align with all stakeholders on the fundamentals: the factual statements of the (technical) situation.
Based on more than 20 years of experience, we can honestly say that you can only start building towards the future once you agree on where you currently stand. This requires transparency based on indisputable facts, which removes a lot of static from future cooperation and collaboration. I hope that by applying our four guidelines on reviewing whether your findings are indisputable helps you cut out static at an early stage so you can accelerate your plans and collaborations.
Read part 1 in this series: Living By the Code: 5 Guiding Principles for Producing Quality Work
Read part 2 in this series: Quality Principle #1: My Work is Evidently Valuable
Read part 3 in this series: Quality Principle #2: My Message is Easily Transferable
Read part 5 in this series: Quality Principle #4: My Solution is Tailored
Read part 6 in this series: Quality Principle #5: My Recommendations are Actionable