London 2012: How would we analyse the decision trail?

For a massive undertaking like the Olympic Games in London next year, there must have been hundreds if not thousands of decisions. There will be thousands more up to and beyond the Opening Ceremony. 

The key decisions (decision scientists call them metadecisions) for the IOC were:

  • How many cities were capable of putting on a Games to match the recent spectaculars in Beijing, Athens and Sydney?
  • Which of the short list had the best case? 

For the London bid team:

  • Can we win?
  • How can we win?
  • What’s it going to take in resource, capability and of course direct and indirect cost?

Going back to our process, how would these decisions have stood up to this massive challenge?

  1. Clarity on your goal
  2. Best data and intelligence – and keep looking for more
  3. Frame – and if necessary keep on framing till the problem is well and truly defined
  4. Structure the most viable options for solving the problem
  5. Identify upsides and downsides in each option
  6. Reward / risk analysis, ensuring that you are not swayed too much by the attractiveness of an option if it has a dangerous downside
  7. Carefully weigh reward and risk, and then make the decision

From what we know now, both the IOC’s metadecisions still look pretty good, although the August riots must have caused some real worries. Their decision making looks inspired by comparison with FIFA’s efforts in choosing venues for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. 

The London bid team’s process also looks sound apart from a gross underestimate of cost. But the overall upside of leaving a really valuable legacy by regenerating the East End was good judgement.

If the process works in retrospect, it certainly commands our support going forward.