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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: The Art of Critical Decision Making

I approached the art of critical decision making with skepticism, not expecting it to provide great insights. It turned out to be excellent.

For instance, I tended to view decision making from a leadership point of view as "figuring out the best thing to do." The lecturer, Michael Roberto comes to it from a completely different angle: the role of the leader is to:

  1. Set up a process for decision making, including a process for identifying the problem(s) that need to be solved.
  2. Foster conflict and encourage debate. The idea here is to draw out as many different perspectives and opinions as possible.
  3. Explore multiple options.
  4. Converge to a decision. This is where the leader, having heard all the other points of view, makes the decision. If the decision is complex, you might actually break down the decision into multiple smaller decisions and do the conflict/converge process iteratively.
If this were all, it wouldn't be worth the time to listen to the lecture series. Roberto covers common dysfunctions, including common situations you probably have already encountered, such as the scenario where everyone seems to agree, but then works actively behind the scenes afterwards to try to undermine the decision. Then there's the inability to converge, or various political issues that come up over and over again. There's also the newly formed team, where nobody has the confidence to say what they really mean, resulting in "groupthink."

A lot of  case studies are provided, including the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs, both Challenger and Columbus shuttle explosions, and some other business related ones. All of them serve to illustrate various points, including the fact that NASA's culture didn't change between the two explosions, which is studied in depth at several levels.

Overall, I enjoyed the series and thought it packed a lot of information and insights into a small amount of time.


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