“To be or not to be?” You decide!

December 19, 2007 by Bill Bradley


Title: Making Judgment Calls (Harvard Business Review Article)

Competencies: Judgment; decision-making

Who benefits: Anyone who wants or needs to improve their judgments and/or make better decisions.

Consultant Usage: Coaching, performance management/evaluation, training handout

What’s it about? Sports fans second-guess the coaches of their favorite teams.  Marriage counselors wonder how two people could possibly contemplate a life together.  Judges sit in amazement as corporate executives try to justify choices of greed and corruption. 

And at the end of our lease on life, each of us shall be remembered by the sum of our judgments.  We are talked about as “loving”, “spiteful”, “lazy” or simply “good” because of our actions, which were the results of decisions we made along life’s highway.  Those decisions were the products of our judgments.  And if we were “smart” enough and “motivated” enough, we learned from our poor judgments and, at a minimum, didn’t repeat them again.  In more rare cases, perhaps we even went back and rectified a poor judgment. 

In my consulting career I have been exposed to many articles, books, courses and materials on decision-making, but I can’t recall any insights into the judgments that precede the actual decisions.

This lack of perspective is what led me to read “Making Judgment Calls”in the 2007 October Harvard Business Review.  The article is written by two of the true gurus of the people side of business, Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis.  As a personal disclosure, they also happen to be two of my favorite authors. 

This 11-page article examines judgment as a three-step process.  Prior to describing the process they take a few paragraphs to describe the critical areas where, in the business world, judgment counts most: People, Strategy and Crisis.  And of the three they consider People the most important – specifically finding and keeping people who consistently demonstrate good judgment.

The first stage of the judgment process they describe as “preparation”.  This is the stage when leaders think about and frame the issue that will result in a judgment call.  During this phase the leader also spends time with team members getting their inputs and getting them aligned.  When the call is made, no one is surprised. 

Second – not last – is the decision itself.

Third is the execution of the decision.  During this phase is the exceptional leaders are open to learning and adjusting their decisions.  The authors call this “redo loops” – changes that occur based upon feedback and follow-through.

Redo loops allow for dealing with resistance to the changes, alternative ways to mobilize and align the team, reexamining the initial framing of the issue.   

As I see it, these redo loops help leaders remember that good judgments are a process, not isolated events.  It examines judgments in terms of quality, not quantity.  Too often in the hectic pace of business life, we are rewarded for quick calls and moving on.  Accountability is often delayed or non-existent.  Yet, in the end businesses, governments, and yes, individuals will be held accountable for their judgments by shareholders, stakeholders, bosses, voters, spouses, anyone with a vested interest.

If you like the article, the book version: Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls was released in early November, 2007.  

I liked the article both in content and style.  Give it a read and decide if my judgment was correct. 

[tags]making judgments, decision-making, competency, coaching, Bill Bradley, William Bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Leadership Development

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