In one eye and out the other


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Managers and employees often rush to judgment when drawing conclusions and making decisions. They do not adequately appreciate how their decisions might be altered if they dug deeper with analytics to better understand the root cause of a problem they are solving or an opportunity they may be pursuing.

I use the phrase “in one eye and out the other” to mean there is little time and effort to frame a problem or opportunity, determine what should be understood, and perform a systematic exercise. For example, a retailer might attempt to promote sales of certain products by printing coupons on the back of receipts at the checkout counter. The retailer’s objective is to sell what they want to sell rather than what might entice the individual might be incented to purchase. A more personalized approach might be to access the customer’s loyalty card and tailor and offer a discounted offer based on purchase history of the customer.

The issue is that a problem was not properly framed. Typically what people do is defer to mental shortcuts from learning by discovery. So for example, one decides to take an umbrella if the sky has dark clouds but not if it is sunny. Is one 100% sure? It’s probably good enough for the umbrella decision. But do you know or just think you know? This example gives a glimpse of limits of decision making. Mental shortcuts, gut feel, intuition and so on typically work except when problems get complex.

When problems get complex, then a new set of issues arise. Systematic thinking with analytics is required. As I mentioned, what often trips people is they do not start by framing a problem before they begin collecting information that will lead to their conclusions. There is often a bias or preconception. One seeks data that will validate one’s bias. We prepare ourselves for X and Y happens. By framing a problem, one widens the options to formulate hypothesis. Without initial problem framing, mistakes are inevitable. Sadly, many decision makers often do not learn from their mistakes but repeat them with more gusto. In one eye and out the other!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Cokins, CPIM
Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and enterprise performance and risk management (EPM/ERM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm located in Cary, North Carolina at Gary is the Executive in Residence of the Institute of Management Accountants (


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