What To Ask Your Team Before Acting On Their Recommendation

There's a great article in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review by Daniel Kahneman that includes a 12-question checklist that is designed to unearth cognitive biases of teams making recommendations that leaders take into consideration before they make their decisions.

The questions include those the leaders should ask themselves and questions they should use to challenge the people proposing a course of action. 

Here are some of the recommended questions:
  • Is there any reason to suspect the team making the recommendation is motivated by self-interest?
  • Has the team fallen in love with its proposal?
  • Were the dissenting options within the team explored adequately?
  • Are credible alternatives included along with the recommendation?
  • Are the recommenders overly attached to a history of past decisions?
  • Is the recommending team overly cautious?
  • Where did the worst case scenario come from? 
  • How sensitive is the recommendation to our competitors' responses? 
  • What could happen that we have not thought of?
And, here are some of the author's other recommendations for vetting the quality of decisions and uncovering biases that may have distorted the reasoning of people who created the recommendations:
  • Review proposals to spot overoptimism.
  • Be cautious of an absence of dissent in a team addressing a complex problem.
  • As a good practice, insist that the team submit at least one or two alternatives to the main recommendation and explain their pros and cons.
  • Consider all recommendations as if you were a new CEO at your company.
  • When considering new investments, disregard past expenditures that don't affect future costs or revenues.
  • Don't influence a team's proposals by choosing team members whose opinions are already known.
Kahneman is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and a partner at The Greatest Good.


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