12 Stories of BIG Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right

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Author: Thomas Davenport & Brook Manville

Making great judgments for business and in teams is a crucial part of leadership and something I value a great deal.  Judgments are often seen as something we react to with negative connotations but it is much more frequent yet invisible in ever little action we take, the choices and decisions we make many times a day and in the case of this book, the big decisions we need to make as well.  The authors have 4 parts in this book, that put the 12 stories into the following categories:

  1. Participative problem solving processes.  Examples from NASA, a home-builder, and McKinsey & Company.
  2. Use of technology and analytics in decision making. Examples from a health-care, technology and a school system.
  3. Organisational culture guiding decision-making.  Examples from ancient Athens, EMC and the Vanguard Group.
  4. Leaders with participative decision-making styles.  Examples from a philanthropic organisation, a media company and a product company.

These wide range of stories give a broad view of how decisions and the challenges associated with them might be faced in any organization.  There are no silver bullet insights or conclusions with step based programs to handle making decisions, since these issues are much more complex and through the stories, you will see this.  The book does however provide a view into the many factors that contribute to great judgments such as knowledge, experience, culture, information and organizational structure among the many.

I thought that about half of the stories had good subject matter, clear examples of actionable decision methods and were useful to consider how those techniques could be applied.  The other half of the stories however, I thought were less engaging or even contradicting like an example of NASA’s participative process that led both to failures and successes.  The failures followed the same process even though the authors seemed to use it as convincing evidence on how the participative process would be successful, despite the critical failures it created in NASA.

Anyway, there are no simple conclusions to draw or actionable steps to follow, but the stories will lead you to consider how ever decision and organizational judgment have a wide range of perspectives and that groups or teams of people will have more successes over individual heroes making decisions solely.  It’s a good book and if you are a leader or aspiring leader who will be facing higher level decisions that affect your organization, you will likely get a lot out of this book and some definite stories to relate to, think on and draw your own conclusions from.

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