One of the phrases I often hear during strategic planning sessions is the need for “evidence-based decision making.” This reference comes up across many sectors, along with the occasional musing about what is considered “evidence” at all.
As I’ve been working with various Boards of Directors at the environmental scanning stage of strategic planning recently, I’ve been thinking about what they need to be well-equipped to make the decisions facing them.
Decision makers do need evidence – reliable empirical data on which to ground their deliberations.
They also need experiential evidence, which usually comes in the form of opinions gathered through stakeholder engagement and the experiences of those around the decision-making table.
Finally, they need inspiration. What could we imagine doing? What have others tried? Who are the rock stars against whom we want to benchmark our performance? Too often the previous forms of input are retrospective and almost by definition stuck in the status quo. They need to be elevated by curiosity and imagination stirred by inspiring examples of alternative ways of doing things.
Even when leaders have all three sources at their fingertips, the trickier assignment lies in deciding together how to weight those various sources of evidence when designing a course of action. That’s where the framing of the task becomes critical, and the facilitation of structured dialogue is an important skill in our toolbox.
When you look back on the decisions your board, leaders or teams have made recently, it’s likely that one or more of these sources of evidence has been missing. Or you need to bolster the quality of the conversations that help the group to translate those inputs into wiser decisions faster.