Groundhog Day is February 2nd, “celebrated” since 1887. We await the emergence of a groundhog from his burrow and predict whether we can expect more winter or an early spring based on the visibility of his shadow. Interestingly, PunxsutawneyPhil (the groundhog), is only right about 39% of the time. What lessons can we learn from Punxsutawney Phil about drawing false conclusions?

1. Involve the Right Folks – While I’m sure Punxsutawney Phil has some mean wood-chewing skills, I question his ability to draw causation between his shadow and weather patterns. When we have determinations to make, we must engage our Subject Matter Experts to help us draw the most accurate conclusions. Instead of discussing a process-upset with a senior vice president or only the design engineer, engage the person running the process who knows how “normal” operation looks, sounds and feels. She or he is likely privy to information that can help determine what created the abnormal circumstance. Who are the people who have the most accurate perception or first-hand knowledge of the issue? Involve them or you might be drawing false conclusions.

2. Facts, Not Feelings – Based on Punxsutawney Phil’s weather-predicting accuracy, we could flip a coin and more accurately predict more winter or early spring. Statistically, we’d be right 50% of the time! We have to get into the habit of validating the assumptions we are using to make our decisions. What data or evidence is there to confirm our understanding? (And apparently now, more than ever, we have to validate that the facts are, in fact, FACTS!) Phrases like, “I think…” and “I’m pretty sure that…” should be red flags that an assumption is being made. Develop a questioning attitude and validate your assumptions with facts or you might be drawing false conclusions.

3. Risk of Being Wrong – My guess is that since Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of the weather is inconsequential, the superstitious tradition will carry on! When we find ourselves in the throes of time-pressure having to respond to upsets, we run the risk of approaching decisions with blinders on. This can lead us to draw narrow-minded conclusions that, if false, can lead to expensive errors. What is the risk if we are wrong, and should we take more time to validate our decision-making process? Challenge your own thinking or you might be drawing false conclusions.

Looks like Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring this year! Happy Groundhog Day!