The Best Decisions Come From the Right Information

“Making the right decision starts with having the right information.”  Golf legend Tiger Woods once said that in a television commercial and I’ve been thinking about it.

As a corporate chief executive officer, I make decisions every day that range from what to have for lunch to whether I should expand my business and accept new clients.  As a casino general manager or key executive, you face a multitude of decisions on every shift.  Do you have the right information to make the best decision?  I know the commercial says “right” decision, but I prefer “best.”  After all, in some situations, decision making is not a matter of right or wrong.  It’s more a matter of figuring out what is best for all involved.

In my world as a casino guest service consultant, I often talk about things being “your movie.”  What I mean by that is we each have an imaginary movie that we see in our head about various situations.  We all do it at some level.  For example, I see someone at the store and make a movie about who they are, what they do, etc.  But because we don’t always have the right information, these movies often are no more based on fact than “The Da Vinci Code.”  I certainly wouldn’t want to make any business decisions based on such movies.

Pay close attention to what you do for one day and, just for giggles, tally up the number of decisions you make based on fiction.  Using something as benign as ordering lunch,   you decide to eat healthy and have a salad.  You have the right information and know that salad is a healthy choice.  But you don’t have all the right information.  You load it with dressing, cheese and a few croutons, creating a lunch probably higher in fat than a sandwich and a bowl of fruit.  Still, your movie shows you eating a healthy meal.

Taking this to the next level, I’ll remind you I’ve been writing lately that guest satisfaction surveys are a waste of time, energy and money.  Why?  Because people are fickle and “satisfaction” doesn’t measure risk.  The person taking the survey risks nothing by answering the questions.  But you survey your guests anyway and you now have a big chunk of fiction in your movie that says more than 70 percent of your customers are satisfied or extremely satisfied.  The executive team sits around a large table patting each other on the back because they are doing such a great job.  The good times roll and some of you decide to buy bigger cars.  You go for the gold and snap up that collector’s watch you’ve been eyeing.

But your movie is not based on the right information and you have not made the best decision.  The satisfaction survey has zero correlation to the future growth of your casino and the payment on your new car is very real.  What if the survey is used to justify an expansion of your casino?  I’m not sure that is the best choice for all involved.

Now let’s take the fallacy of employee satisfaction surveys for a spin.  You ask your employees how satisfied they are so you can do what?  If they are not satisfied, what will you do about it?  Pay them more money?  Tell human resources to hire better people?  Make your guests pass a personality test before they come in so they will be nice to the employees?   If your employees are actually satisfied, what will you do about it?  In either of these situations, I suspect you will do exactly the same thing  – nothing.

But for fun, let’s say the survey reveals that your employees are not satisfied and, based on that information, you decide to rectify the situation.  At this point, the movie is already playing in your head.  You start an employee incentive program or revise the one you launched a year ago.  Oops, you spend a lot of time and money and it doesn’t work because the next survey says employees still aren’t happy.  You turn to the HR people who designed and implemented the incentive program or the vendor that provided it and you let them have it right between the eyes.  But the problem may not be the program or its execution.  The problem may be the initial decision.  Your decision to improve satisfaction was not the best one because it was based on erroneous information.  Face it, employee satisfaction is as fickle as the wind.  If employees get lots of tips on Tuesday, they’re satisfied.  If tips are lousy on Wednesday, they’re not satisfied.

When I give a presentation to senior executives in the big meeting room with all the mahogany, I throw a statement on the screen that says, “We all know that improved guest satisfaction leads to growth.”  I leave the slide up for a moment and ask for a show of hands.  How many believe that statement?  A lot of hands go up.  Then I ask why they believe it and the answer is always the same:  “I just know.”  Here’s one thing that’s for sure.  These people are making major decisions and investments based on anecdotal evidence and beliefs.  

My last example involves hiring people for the team, especially the senior team.  You are hiring the key people who will lead your property toward its future goals.  So what are these decision based on?  I hate to say it, but these hires often are the result of a feeling.  The interview seemed positive and the candidate felt like a good fit for the property.  That’s hardly a scientific assessment that will lead to good choices.

Tiger Woods is right.  The best decisions come from the right information.  That’s a rule of thumb that you can employ every minute of every day on the job.  

Martin R. Baird
Robinson & Associates, Inc.