Grant Purdy and Roger Estall have recently published a book on decision-making called Deciding. Written to help decision makers (they call them Deciders) to make ‘even better decisions’ it goes directly to the two big challenges for every Decider – ensuring that each decision will contribute to (rather than detract from) achieving the purpose of their organisation, and being sufficiently certain that the outcomes that result from the decision, are those they intend.
You can read more about our book here – https://sufficientcertainty.com.
The authors saw the need for this book because understanding and dealing with uncertainty is fundamental to making sound decisions and yet, doing so presents practical challenges. After long careers they came to realise that attempting to resolve uncertainty via the constructs of ‘risk’ and ‘managing risk’ had not only failed but ultimately, could never succeed. This is also borne out by multiple surveys that show that risk management ‘maturity’ (whatever that means) is persistently low.
There are two obvious reasons for the failure of ‘risk management’ to produce good decisions:
- the foundation word ‘risk’ has literally dozens of meanings and so has no utility or transactional value;
- it is fanciful to imagine that any approach based on a one-size-fits-all complicated system of ‘risk management’ can or will be ‘integrated’ into the highly individual ways through which organisations function.
Indeed, across our 40+ year careers they realised that they had yet to find an organisation asserting to practice ‘risk management’ that did not, in reality, have separate processes for ‘risk management’ and for actual decision-making. They realised that whatever ‘risk management’ is thought or claimed to be, it neither does, nor can ensure effective decision-making.
So, the underlying approach in writing Deciding, was to respect the way that organisations (and individuals) operate (which they do by making and implementing decisions) rather than suggest they do something entirely different. The most obvious reason for this is that most organisations (and individuals) make many good decisions every day. Were that not so, there would be widespread failure. So, the focus in Deciding is on leveraging their existing practices to make even better decisions.
In broad terms, everyone makes decisions in the same way – that there is in fact, a ‘universal method of decision-making’. The only differences between Deciders is the extent to which they are aware of the method as they apply it, and their skill and experience in its application.
The authors also realised – as have many others who found that ‘risk management’ and other management fads don’t work or help – that jargon is an anathema to most people. Either they don’t master or can’t be bothered to learn a new language or – as is so often the case – the concocted expressions aren’t coherent anyway (‘risk clock speed’ anyone?). So, in Deciding they use plain language to explain the universal method of decision-making, relying on the ordinary meaning of words to discuss essential issues such assumptions, context and post-decision change.
The authors have drawn on the diverse experiences of our careers to provide many practical examples and anecdotes and even if some might not be directly relevant to the reader, they hope the more general point or principle illustrated by each will be recognised and of help. As is said in the book, they have written it for thinkers keen to grasp and apply its concepts, rather than for those seeking a formulaic or tick-box approach.
Although conceived long before the COVID-19 crisis, the book will be helpful to all who are faced with making very important decisions in the present highly dynamic situation.