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By: Thomas Carson

Sospes is more than safety. Data collection affects Decision Making which leads to better business outcomes.

What the Temple of Doom Teaches Us about Decision Making

I was recently talking with one of my daughters about how our decisions have the potential to put us on paths to happiness or set courses for disaster. Decision support for young kids is largely provided by parents (one hopes), but what happens when we get older and are on our own? How does our decision-making process affect our outcomes?

According to researchers at Cornell University, the average adult is faced with 35,000 choices a day. The consulting firm McKinsey surveyed executives and determined that more than one-third of a manager’s time is spent on decision making. Yet 68% of the managers said that most of the time spent making decisions was inefficient and 72% said that bad decisions were as common as good ones!

One reason decisions can be made at such a high rate is because many of our decisions are made from habit or at a subconscious level. For example: Grab coffee cup with left hand or right hand? Put keys in pants or coat pocket? Pizza or salad for lunch? And some of these habit-based decisions can produce more serious outcomes: speed up or slow down for the yellow light? Grab safety glasses or skip it this time? These examples support the McKinsey study proposition that developed processes for decision-making are likely to produce better outcomes consistently then depending on individuals’ best efforts.

So how should we go about making good decisions? I find guidance in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Didn’t you know that was a well-regarded management practices film? Think back to the scene in the cave where Walter Donovan must choose the correct grail to achieve eternal life. He begins by openly admitting that he doesn’t have any idea what he is looking for.

  • Lesson one: Don’t shoot the world’s leading expert on the grail, eliminating needed expertise. In other words: knowledgeable colleagues improve our outcomes.

He then turns to Elsa, someone who it turns out he has no reason to trust, and asks her to make a choice that quite literally carries life-or-death consequences.

  • Lesson two: Important decisions should have disciplined, inclusive processes, not depend on whim.

Because he didn’t have a decision-making process, after a spectacularly bad outcome, the ancient knight summed up the situation, “He chose…poorly.”

This scenario raises a variation of constant concern for most safety professionals: Did I make good choices because of my process or was I just lucky? Were you safe this year because of your processes and culture, or could you have equally chosen poorly?

There are volumes written on decision-making strategies and systems, but good practices almost always involve inclusion of people closest to the work and gathering as much data as possible on which to base sound decisions. This is where effective EHS software, when used as designed, can contribute to more effective decision making with better outcomes. One of the most rewarding parts of our jobs at Sospes is watching the progression as safety teams move from time consuming manual processes through automated data collection and reporting and then begin to realize the value in the analytics reports. This is the stage at which safety professionals realize the enormous business impact from leveraging their skills and knowledge.

At Sospes, we pride ourselves in delivering tools that make data collection and reporting easy for those closest to the work. When this data is incorporated into well-developed decision-making processes, the benefits are clearly seen in employee satisfaction, safety outcomes, and financial results.

Set yourself apart from the nearly three-quarters of managers who say bad decisions are as common as good ones. Give us a call. We’d be happy to talk about how our EHS software supports your decision-making processes for continual improvement.

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