Simplifying The Analytic Process — pt 6

Decisions, decisions, decisions

One can claim that the Analytic Process is all about a lot of things. My preference is learning, but many would tell you that it is decision-making. Making decision is the most direct point of this process and shorter term, the most significant point for most businesses.

So far we have walked through the phases of the process for collecting inputs, processing the information, and organizing it. But finally we have arrived at the point — decision-making (D). It is time to decide something. If only it were that simple.

The (D) phase could also stand for discipline or even detail. Both enter strongly into this process. For starters, a series of decisions need to be made… not just one. Attention to detail will be important to get this all right.

Decision-Making, like all Analytic Skills, is iterative

So don’t think of this as the time to make some great big decision. It is more correctly viewed as a series of smaller ones. You started early in the process by determining what question to ask. You determined what data to collect. You decided what priority to place on portions of your process. You made dozens of determinations during the organization phase. All of these designed to deliver you at a final decision point. Wait? Did you miss that?

No worries. The first loop through the Analytic Process often results in a one of those three stooges moments. Calm down and carry on. Remember — I am not getting paid for each use of the word iteration or recursion, it IS the process.

On your first pass, you are more than allowed to have a “wait a minute, what the hell am I actually trying to determine here” moment. It is actually expected. Try not to go all Curly though…

I often laugh when an executive requests to understand the big question before any real analytics has taken place. Sorry guys — it doesn’t work like that. But now, we have arrived at a phase where bigger decisions (and sometimes big questions) should arise. The trick — break them down.

Here we go again…

Like every article in this series, we do not have enough time and room to develop everything you might want to know about decision-making. Like before, I advocate for application, mentorship, and hands-on experience. But let’s stage some insight… let’s call them rules (a little like Dua Lipa).

  1. Don’t make big decisions. Executives may love them. The marketing team wants to brand them. The sales guys can sell them. But you will struggle to answer them.
  2. It is only an analytic decision if you can measure it. If you can’t measure it, you will never know if you did it right.
  3. Don’t complicate things. Decisions are choices. Typically binary ones. You are either doing something or are you aren’t. You want the vanilla or the chocolate… wait, let’s use that!

To make this decision, Vanilla vs Chocolate, you already made a dozen smaller ones. Let’s break that down. First you decided you were hungry. Second you picked ice cream, perhaps through a more refined process of sweet vs savory… etc. Third you opted to pick between the two most popular (or at least common) flavors. Layman think they made one decision. Analysts realize they made dozens. This is the (D) phase of analytics in a nutshell… minus the measurement… well, sort of…

So let’s measure

Measurement is most often numbers… but it need not be. At the end of choosing your ice cream cone, you eat it (with any luck). At which point you either enjoyed it as much as you had hoped … or you didn’t. That is measurement minus any clear numbers.

Indirectly — you had a benchmark level of enjoyment, likely quasi-quantifiable (think scale of 1 to 10), that either you feel you obtained or didn’t. It is a form of measurement. It is also the (D) phase of the process. You determined whether it was “good for you” or not…

I would not really consider picking your choice of ice cream to be a seriously disciplined or analytic process, but it could be. You would run the risk of being called anal… a type of clipping that I don’t recommend, but you would likely learn a lot about your ice cream preferences along the way. Regardless, hopefully this article has given you some perspective on this phase.

In our next article — we will complete the first pass of our story. We will likely pause a bit for some hindsight and reflection, as well. But we will return (iterate) to additional articles on decision-making. Coming soon…

And, as always, thanks for reading!

Simplifying The Analytic Process — pt 6 was originally published in Comprehension 360 on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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