Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Judgment Calls: 12 Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right

Thomas H. Davenport & Brook Manville
Published 2012 by Harvard Business Review Press

Judgment Calls is primarily a book about "organizational judgment," looking at the ability of companies or teams to make good decisions collectively.  The authors declare that this book is an "antidote to the great man theory of decision making and organizational performance" - the theory that one individual at the top is needed to drive successful companies forward.  Businesses are currently functioning in tough economic times with lots of competition and uncertainty.  This makes it very challenging for one individual to safely steer organizations on a path to success. 

This book follows twelve organizations that made tough decisions collectively.  Their stories are told as a way to inspire others with positive stories and examples of workplace idea sharing and culture-building.  They show that these environments conducive to good decision-making can be managed and developed within organizations.

The twelve stories within this book are organized into four categories - four themes of organizational judgment: 1. Stories about the participative problem solving process (drawing on the expertise of others within the organization). 2. Stories about the opportunities of technology and analytics (collecting data upon which sound decisions can be based).  3. Stories about the power of (organizational) culture.  4. Stories about leaders setting the right context.

This is a fascinating book telling positive stories of companies who did things right.  This book is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to foster a workplace culture that draws upon the skills and knowledge of its team members, and incorporates sound data collection into its decision-making processes, without relying on one person to magically get things right every time.  This book would make for an interesting book club discussion, especially if the members have any interest in running businesses or teams, or if they are interested in group dynamics and culture. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is a "great man" (or woman) still needed to make businesses succeed and thrive, and is their high pay justified?
  2. How important is the team leader amidst all this collaboration?
  3. Have you ever worked or participated as part of a team that "got things right?" 
  4. Does this book provide any insight about how to change a dysfunctional workplace/team culture? 
  5. How much stock do you put into the value of data and statistics to base decisions upon?
  6. How did the twelve stories read as a narrative?
  7. Did you enjoy the positive tone, or would you rather have seen more horror stories?
  8. Can any of the decision-making methods talked about here be applied elsewhere in life?
  9. Can you think of any other stories that could have been included in this book?
  10. Have you read any other books on business management, leadership or social dynamics?  If so, how does it compare, and would you now want to read more (or less)?

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