Decisions come in all shapes and sizes and with different levels of impact. How people reach decisions varies considerably, but where a decision will have a significant impact and needs to be accepted and sustainable – be in financial, reputational or emotional – evidence-based solutions yield the best results.

What is evidence-based decision making?

It is all too easy to rely on anecdotes and your own personal experience when making decisions, and this can lead to bias, whether conscious or unconscious. However, where decisions have the potential to impact on people’s lives – either professionally or personally – it is important that the decisions you come to are based on reliable sources.

Evidence-based decision making aims to improve the decision-making process, to inform actions that will ultimately have the desired outcome. It is based on a combination of critical thinking and using the best available evidence.

Four key sources

Decision-makers should find out what is known by analysing four key sources:

  • Literature review: scientific literature on management has become more readily available in recent years, particularly in academic journals. These cover a broad spectrum of topics facing decision-makers and should form an initial point of reference.
  • Company data: this provides the facts and figures within your own organisation and is therefore vital for the decision-making process. The data can be internal – employee surveys, retention rates, performance reviews etc – or external and can include anything from customer satisfaction surveys to levels of repeat business. Everything feeds in to form a picture. It is also important to build a full picture with quantitative and qualitative data included, as this is key to determining causes of problems and implementing solutions.
  • Professional input: expertise and judgement of practitioners, managers, consultants and business leaders is important to ensure effective decision-making. These can be from within your own organisation or external professionals.  This professional knowledge differs from opinion, as it’s accumulated over time, through experiences.
  • Stakeholder input: both internal and external stakeholders’ thoughts and concerns are an important part of the process and provide a frame of reference for analysing the evidence. Employees, managers, board members, suppliers, investors and shareholders views should all be sought.

According to the CIPD there are six steps to ensure that you are able to evaluate the quality of the evidence:

  • Asking – translating a practical issue or problem into an answerable question
  • Acquiring – systematically searching for and retrieving evidence
  • Appraising – critically judging the trustworthiness and relevance of the evidence
  • Aggregating – weighing and pulling together the evidence
  • Applying – incorporating the evidence into a decision-making process
  • Assessing – evaluating the outcome of the decision taken.

These should be supported by asking the following questions:

  • Where and how is evidence gathered?
  • Is it the best evidence available?
  • Is it sufficient to reach a conclusion?
  • Might it be biased in a particular direction? If so, why?
Making the right decision

While it might seem a lot of work to reach a decision, what evidence-based decision making provides you with is a robust decision that can easily be backed up with hard evidence, quantitative data and stakeholder input, which will ultimately make buy-in from all parties easier to achieve.

With access to a wealth of financial and performance information, direct experience of working with a huge range of organisations and a network of leading industry experts, the C.Co team is perfectly placed to help you manage change within your organisation. Contact the C.Co team today to find out how we can work with you to reach decisions that will benefit everyone.