The CIA can teach CEOs a thing or two

Most business leaders at CxO level neglect to consistently evaluate and review the quality of the decisions they make within their organizations. A lack of time is what is most commonly given as excuse, and the results of their decisions are often inconclusive, even when looking back.

According to the New York Times, the CIA can teach Chief Executive Officers a lesson or two regarding employee evaluation, understanding customers and forecasting and anticipating the competition. Failure in the gathering and evaluation of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, forced the CIA to completely overhaul the agency’s decision-making processes.

This organisational change brought along these tips:

  • Evaulate information skeptically – Make sure to understand the source of specific information, this helps to consider its accuracy and relevance. Decisions are frequently made with faulty data, leading to unwanted results. Tackle this issue by asking people to source information on major assertions.
  • Don’t overcompensate past errors and experiences – The main lesson here is to learn from your mistakes. Business environments change continously, so challenge what you think you know. But don’t let your analysis linger on for too long, once a decision is made: go with it! As Thomas Fingar, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, said: “Learning from past mistakes is imperative, worrying about them is pointless.
  • Draw conclusions carefully – A piece of information can be interpreted differently by different people. Challenge your organization to come to conclusions from more than one viewpoint. The CIA works with ‘red teams’, which are specifically looking for weaknesses, errors and bias in conclusions.
  • Avoid ‘top-down’ influence – Employees that know the desired outcomes of the decision-making process tend to look for conclusions that match with the vision of management. As employees feel their personal career is linked with the outcome (not matching the desired results will have a negative impact), this renders the eventual results pretty much useless.

Is the CIA kicking in open doors, or are these suggestions valuable to the leaders of today?

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