Extreme uncertainty

It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that organisations are currently operating under extreme circumstances. We are all experiencing heightened uncertainty and rapid change. We all know that we have to prioritise some business activities over others, but which ones? Some individuals will have very strong opinions about what the organisation should do next. Some might have no strong preference and see several options as equally viable. An organisation is composed of all of these people though, so how can these parties rapidly commit to the same course of action when so much is uncertain?

Triage for organisations

Triage is the process of swiftly determining the most important people or things from amongst many that require attention. We’re most familiar with its application in a medical context: accident and emergency departments in busy hospitals; ground zero of a natural disaster; or on the battlefield.

Given the current climate, our organisations, public and private, would benefit from the application of triage. Even before the current crisis, staff were struggling to achieve a set of shared priorities. It’s more important than it’s ever been for organisations to promptly determine the most important things for them to do, whether micro or macro. Staff need a shared appreciation of what’s truly important right now, and why that is.

Embrace decision models

Triage nurses, in extremely stressful circumstances, can prioritise treatment very rapidly because they use algorithmic decision models. That may sound more complicated than it is. An algorithm is just a set of simple rules: IF [this] THEN do [that]. IF [it’s raining] THEN [use an umbrella].

There are many benefits of a systematic approach to group decision-making, not least being the reduction in subjectivity. An algorithm, regardless of complexity, can only act on inputs i.e. evidence rather than opinion. “Algorithms beat individuals about half the time. And they match individuals about half the time,” says Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate for Economics and “grandfather” of behavioural economics. “There are very few examples of people outperforming algorithms in making predictive judgments. So when there’s the possibility of using an algorithm, people should use it.”

Algorithmic decision models that use software have the additional benefit of being extremely fast. That’s an important advantage when the landscape seems to change under your feet every day.

From needs to decisions

The N2D Method® is a web-based decision model. It has sophisticated algorithms at its heart but it’s simple to use. In less than a day, it can help groups decide what to do next, based on the needs of the people they serve. It swiftly produces a clear set of organisational priorities with rationale.

If you’d like to find out more about this approach to organisational triage, there’s a short webinar providing an overview on April 1st. You may register using this link.