Running on gut instinct

Is gut instinct the ideal way to run a complex business?

Let's assume that you're running a business involving quite complex project management, along with resource scheduling and capacity planning. That's a lot to juggle. Which is better: Make a decision based on instinct, and them look for data that supports it? Or get the best data you can and then test it with your instinct?

The problem with the former approach is that literally any decision can find data to justify it. You can be certain that every calamitous decision in business over the last century had some information that supported it.

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Informing your big decisions

Some decisions have a long-term impact and can introduce serious risk if you get them wrong:

  • Shifts of direction
  • Structural changes
  • Changes of focus and business model
  • Decisions to grow or shrink the business

So what’s the best way to approach such decisions? Trust your judgement? Spend more time thinking about it? Bring in more advisers? Analyse all the angles until you’re weary?

Obviously not. People tend to agonise over big decisions not merely because they are big decisions but because they lack  good information hat would make the choice easier.

Gary Winder, Managing Director of environmental consultancy REC, told us:

“Synergist helps us to make huge decisions that we couldn’t do before. For example, we made a structural change as a direct result of the data provided by Synergist."

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Challenging your assumptions

If you know a person’s biases you can often predict what their decisions will be. An intelligent guess is still a guess, and it might be dead wrong. Remember, bias is unconscious, by definition.

So it’s hard to challenge your own decisions. You don’t really know where to start. It’s difficult to think that your instincts may have a few blindspots. Which ones? You don't know.

What you need is a way to confront yourself and your decisions with something neutral – the facts. Says Sara Blannin, Finance Director of ECUS:

"You can’t run a complex business properly unless your assumptions are being constantly tested. And the most effective challenge to assumptions is with evidence – clean data. So accurate real-time information on projects, clients and profitability is crucial.

Transparency exposes wrong assumptions. Synergist delivers information that gives us confidence with which to challenge assumptions, both for management and the teams.”

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The entire team as one

In a busy workplace it’s hard to keep everybody up to date. A phone call from a client or news of a delay in a project can have immediate implications for the team. One way to try to communicate is by endless emails and little yellow sticky notes on computer screens. Not very sustainable.

A smart alternative is to have everybody access the same up-to-date information online all the time, wherever they are. When you make a change, you know that it flows across the entire team's screens immediately. This applies to not only individuals but managers:

Finance Director Steven Clark of Tayburn, told us

“It’s all encompassing. You have to be able to see the big picture at a glance. We have 40 people here now. They all use Synergist and access the same data.”

Decisions by managers

Says Sara Blannin:

“[Previously] we couldn’t give team managers the information they needed to manage their staff as well as they wanted, or to make well-informed decisions.

Decisions by the team

David Ladds, partner at London-based communications agency Bladonmore, told us:

"Every team member is constantly making decisions. Having all the facts brings a level of objectivity and clarity to decision-making that can be otherwise hard to achieve."

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The realities

If you want facts, you have to accept that sometimes they will surprise you. Some are better than you feared, but not all...

Simon Butler, Co-Founder of digital agency Purestone, now LEWIS Purestone, had this to say on the subject:

"Synergist lets us make informed decisions. We are given the facts. Not all facts are enjoyable, but you need them anyway. It's like using bathroom scales. You might not like the reading, but its objective so it helps you make decisions."

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