Risk-Based Decision Making in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Risk-Based Decision Making: Manage your Chimp! By Martin Lush

By Martin Lush, Global Vice President, Pharma Biotech and Medical Devices

Every day we make decisions. Hundreds of them. Some routine, others monumental, the occasional even life changing. At a recent NSF course on ‘Risk Based Decision Making’ we shared with delegates the latest research on decision making and provided them with some simple rules (our ‘Five to Drive') to help dramatically improve their decision making.

Decision Making - What the science tells us:

> Most decisions are driven by emotion, emanating from the region of our brain responsible for controlling our immediate (survival driven) fight, flight, or freeze responses. What Dr Steve Peters (author of ‘The Chimp Paradox’) calls our ‘Chimp brain’. Want to make better decisions? Steve just tells us to ' manage your Chimp’. Trust me; overcoming your natural instincts (your Chimp brain) is not easy. It takes ‘process’ and lots of practice. More on this later

> The impact stress. When tired or stressed you are more likely to make emotional, Chimp driven, survival orientated decisions. Even if it means ignoring the real situation, the real facts, as well as common sense.

> The danger of peer pressure. Now, we all like to be included and respected by our peers. It’s therefore not surprising that peer pressure and ‘group think’ can have a profound effect on decisions. After all, no one likes to be the ‘odd one out’. The one saying ‘no’ when everyone else is saying ‘yes’. Even though you know you're right!

> Bias and incorrect assumptions. When faced with any problem or decision the brain scans its memory banks to see if the situation has been encountered before. This saves time and valuable energy. Why reinvent the wheel? Just do what you did before! A question for you. How many of your subject matter experts make fast decisions, often without any supporting data or information? They are usually so confident (‘relax, I’ve seen this before, I know what we have to do…’) others rarely challenge them. The danger is the 'situation' may appear the same, but isn’t. Their decision has been biased by historical events that no longer reflect reality. All just to save thinking time and energy

Decision Making Rules: Here are your ‘Five to Drive’

1. Control your Chimp! (emotions)

Create space (thinking time) between the situation and your decision . Use this space to gather facts and opinions. The bigger the ‘gap’ the more measured and less emotional your decision. Just remember that creating this space = better decision

Always follow a structured, systematic decision making process. On our Risk Based Decision Making course we provide delegates with a simple, effective 5 step process. They tell us it really works. If you want a free copy let me know (martinlush@nsf.org)

We also help delegates perfect other decision making techniques such as ‘Six Hats Thinking’, ‘Peeling the Onion’ and ‘Force Field Analysis’. They all work…with practice

Relax! Avoid making a decision when stressed or fatigued. It will probably be wrong. Make important decisions in the morning when you are fresh and free from distractions. Particularly the really important decisions

‘Sleep on it’. During sleep your brain is working hard making connections and filing information for easy access the next morning. This period of 'incubation' and consolidation is key to good decision making.

So, learn to manage you Chimp brain. Remember, good poker players ignore the emotional driver to win the pot or recover their losses by focussing on the facts and risk based probabilities. They know the cards in front of them and quickly weigh up the risks before they fold, raise or bluff. Chimp control in action!

2. Challenge group think and ‘bias’

Challenge anyone (particularly your 'experts') when they make fast, usually biased, decisions. Just ask for the facts. Their objective reasons. Their justification. You may be surprised, even shocked

Never be afraid of speaking up. Challenge group think.You could save the day

3. Consult widely and generate options.

Decisions are rarely black and white, more usually a shade of grey. Consult widely, generate options. The more important the decision the more extensive your consultation should be. Look for people who are likely to disagree. When colleagues have different viewpoints explore differences of opinion rather than wasting time and energy arguing about them. ‘Six Hats Thinking’ is a great tool for this. Whatever you do don’t surround yourself with people who just agree with you!

4. Learn from your mistakes.

The best decision makers always learn from their mistakes. Look back on the decisions you’ve made. Did things work out as expected? Did everything go according to plan? What went wrong? What would you differently next time?

5. Practice, refine, practice....

We can all become better decision makers…but only with practice. Use case studies and problem solving exercises that simulate real life situations as realistically as possible. The more you practice the faster good decision making will become a habit. Something you do automatically.

Just remember, we all become the product of the decisions we make, both personally and professionally! If you want any more free information ng just let me know and I will send you the links by return (martinlush@nsf.org)

About the Author

Martin Lush has over 30 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. He has held senior management positions in QA, manufacturing, QC and supply chain auditing and has conducted audits and education programs for many hundreds of companies in over 25 countries.

Copyright © 2015 NSF International.

This document is the property of NSF International and is for NSF International purposes only. Unless given prior approval from NSF, it shall not be reproduced, circulated or quoted, in whole or in part, outside of NSF, its committees and its members. Cite as: NSF International. August, 2015. Risk Based Decision Making: Manage your Chimp!. NSF: Ann Arbor, MI.


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