Category Archives: Levers

Responsibility, authority, and insanity

So this is pretty basic.  But it’s huge.

Problem: You are working at a bank and have been tasked with developing a new customer care program.  You’re making good progress, and reach out one day to a colleague for their ideas.  Word of the meeting gets around, and an executive walks into your office one day, assuming you’re floundering, and tells you what to do.

Problem: Your second grader is in trouble at school.  Teachers and other parents call you on the phone, asking you to fix the problem.  You are starting to develop some good ideas and making plans.  But one day, the school principal makes the decision to move your child to a special classroom.

Problem: You work on an automobile assembly line.  Your bonus depends on the quality of the cars you help to build.  You see a problem with a welding machine which would cost $100 to fix.  But management won’t approve the repair.

What’s the common pattern here?  It’s responsibility without authority: a good recipe for insanity.

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Artificial intelligence and human limits

Are we getting dumber?  Or is stuff just harder?

Both are true.  Between-silo problems are the new bottleneck.  We’re inundated with information, so we take cognitive short cuts.   And “wicked” problems keep getting wickeder.

Take this “invisible art” artist.  She sold a few.*

Real decisions are made in the heart, the gut, based on a good story.  So we’re vulnerable to master wizards: good story tellers.  And, often, we’ll do what they say.

It’s impossible to assemble hundreds of graphs and data visualizations in our heads to make good decisions. It’s a fiction that we can.  So we’re overwhelmed, take short-cuts, but it’s hard to admit.

The good news: we have new superpowers.

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Decision intelligence for data center disaster planning

Much of the world’s information is handled in data centers: nondescript on the outside, indoors you’ll find a din of humming machine in acres of racks.  If an earthquake or other natural disaster should strike a data center, the cost can be enormous.

So spending money on risk mitigation strategies like earthquake-proofing makes sense.

But it’s a tricky balancing act: spend too much for a disaster that never happens, and it’s money down the drain.  Spend too littledatacenter, and a disaster can spell tremendous costs.

A decision model can help.  We built a demonstration of one shown in the video above, at the link here, and in the bottom of this article, for those viewing this online.

Give it a try, it takes about one minute: Continue reading

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Decision Intelligence solutions

Decision engineering Decision intelligence Decison model elements Dependencies Externals For Decision Professionals Introduction Levers Outcomes

My team and I offer decision intelligence and decision engineering to solve your complex problems. Simply put, data is backwards-facing. It’s like watching an elephant’s footprints, rather than understanding the elephant itself. Systems are forward-looking.  There’s no coincidence in the fact that your rear-view mirror is smaller than your windshield. Yet…

Most organizations look backwards, assuming future equals past. This is no longer true. Click To Tweet

So let’s roll up our sleeves together, and take your organization to the next level.

It doesn’t have to be hard.

You still need your data.  It’s always going to be an important tool in validating where you’ve been, and of course, operational data (like a customer’s address) is critical.

But when it comes to making decisions, data is only part of the picture.  Once you make a decision and execute on it, this creates a cascade of events within your organization.  Understanding how the decision leads to an impact…and another…and another…until you’ve reached your objective (or not) may sound like a daunting proposition.  But here’s the rub: you’re doing it already, in your head, every time you think through the consequences of a decision.  Why not get some computer help with that?  Even a little can go a long way.  Because otherwise, you’re facing the fog shown below:outcomes

Here’s what you can expect when working with me to improve your organizational decision making.  Think of this as an “a la carte” menu; some organizations choose the whole bundle, some do one part at a time.  Each has considerable value on its own.

  1. Decision intelligence training. I run half-day to full-week workshops on the core concepts behind decision intelligence.  Here’s a typical course outline.
  2. Company-wide presentation, so everyone knows what we’re up to.  Here are some videos of my public appearances, to give you a flavor of this.
  3. Decision-specific workshop.  I typically work with a multi-functional team.  We begin by aligning around desired business objectives, then proceed through decision specification, design (levers, links, external data, and more), and iterate. We work visually and collaboratively, and often the focus is understanding the links between previously silo’d groups, and modeling the “whack-a-mole” of unintended consequences.
  4. Data assessment.  Usually, only 20% of the data contains 80% of the business value. The challenge is to determine which data contains the value.  Decision intelligence provides a structured and rigorous approach to figuring this out.  If you don’t take this approach, you can waste a lot of time managing data using “operational” methods, where less expensive “analytical” approaches are a tremendously better fit.
  5. Decision model implementation in World Modeler.  You can get a lot out of steps 1-3, but implementing these concepts in an enterprise-class tool is where the big benefits start to kick in.  Sometimes we begin by modeling in Microsoft Excel as well, and often we generate data that can be read by Excel as the model runs.
  6. Decision visualization.  We usually build custom visualizations for our clients.  You can see a few demos, here (for program management) , here (for data center risk assessment), and here (a full-CG decision model visualization).  We build these to your specifications, to meet the needs of your team.
  7. Data and systems integration.  Here, we work with your organization to integrate a real-time decision navigation infrastructure into your business.  Our value proposition: “the best of both worlds”: using our World Modeler platform means that we can built solutions at low risk and lower cost and much more quickly than other companies (indeed, we once built a full bank risk analysis system in under six weeks).  At the same time, it’s fully customized to your needs, as if we’d built it from scratch. Why this is possible?  We’ve discovered what’s required in a general-purpose data and decision management framework, including optimization, data binding, visualization, simulation, and more (read our API documentation here).

Add-ons to the above  include:

  • Additional training:
    • Introduction to R
    • Introduction to neural networks in R
    • Introduction to machine learning in R
    • Building World Modeler custom visualizations
    • Deep-dive decision dependency design
  • Data services
    • Data modeling
    • Enterprise architecture integration
    • Data cleansing
    • Web-based interactive data survey / gathering creation
  • Custom model visualization development
  • ..and much more

So please drop me a line, and let’s explore together whether supercharging your organization’s decision intelligence makes sense for you.

Drop me a line and let's talk!

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It’s a mystery

There’s a scene near the beginning of the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love:

The theatres, we have heard, are all closed by the plague. And then:

HENSLOWE: Mr. Fennyman, let me explain about the theatre business.The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Believe me, to be closed by the plague is a bagatelle in the ups and downs of owning a theatre.
FENNYMAN: So what do we do?
HENSLOWE Nothing. Strangely enough , it all turns out well.
FENNYMAN How?
HENSLOWE I don’t know. It’s a mystery

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Beyond Data (part 2): Big-O snowballs, copycats, and super levers

As computer scientists, one of our first lessons is about “big O” complexity of software. It’s used to understand the expected time for a program to run. “Big O” theory tells us that it’s the order of magnitude of a system—like O(n^2) or O(n)— that matters, much more than smaller factors. To understand the parts of a computer program that dominate the time required to run it, we know not to focus on the tiny parts of the system that irrelevant to the overall behavior. Measuring the performance of a line of code to the fourth decimal place, when it only runs a ten-thousandth of the time that other code does, is wasted time.

As introduced in Beyond Data Part 1, we need to apply the same kind of insight to analyzing data, whether it be for business intelligence, decision support, dashboards, or other systems.

Think about your company as a snowball rolling downhill.  If you start five balls down a slope, they’ll all roll a little while, but some will happen to hit stickier snow, and get a little bit bigger than the others.  Those heavier snowballs will have just a bit more momentum, so they’ll roll a bit further, and use up all the snow, gaining a bit more size in the process. Which makes them heavier, which makes them roll faster.  You get the idea: in general the fortunate few snowballs will end up much bigger, leaving the smaller ones stuck at the top of the hill and others much bigger and much faster. Continue reading

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Decision lever visualization: an animated review

Since thinking so much about levers in the last two posts, I’ve also been pondering the variety of levers I’ve built and seen, and the different purposes they serve in a decision model.   In particular, given that our goal is for models to be as easy to understand as possible to facilitate collaborative team alignment, I think that some principles are emerging.  Here are a few ideas. Continue reading

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Top-ten decision lever best practices

“We need to win more work,” says the CEO.  “Can you think through how we could lower our prices to become more attractive to our customers?”

A good decision engineer can’t help but ask “the lever question” at this point: “Ma’am, are we only to consider pricing, or would you be open to other approaches to winning more work?”  Confirming the scope of levers allowed like this is the most fundamental decision lever best practice, but there are many more.

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Baby steps

It’s not easy selling into an emerging market, no matter how important it is.  We won two projects in the last week or so.  In both cases, the customer hadn’t heard  of decision intelligence before talking with us.  In one, they were looking for data analysis to guide a marketing investment; in the other, the question was to determine the effectiveness of various college course offerings. Continue reading

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About Levers

I’m going to write a series of posts about the core elements of a decision model.  This one’s about Levers: simulations of things you can change as you make the decision.   We might also have called levers choices.

It can be confusing: you’d think that a decision model would produce the choices as output, not as input.  Because it’s supposed to tell us what decision to make, right?  But things are a little backwards: the right decision is the one for which the levers will set in motion a chain of events, that in the future will lead to a desired outcome.  So from this point of view, the action of a lever belongs at the beginning of a decision model, not the end. Continue reading

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