by J. Edward Russo & Paul J. H. Schoemaker. Currency/Doubleday, 2002


INTRODUCTION (pxi-xviii)

    1) Setting the course (p1-16)

      [1] The three factors that determine "outcomes" or the quality of achievement are:

        (1) DECIDING --- the thinking and decision process

        (2) DOING --- implementation and other factors under your control

        (3) CHANCE --- uncontrollable factors, such as luck!

    By definition, you cannot control the factors in the "chance" category --- although you can seek to move more factors under your control and leave as little as possible to chance!

    The "outcome" in most real-world decisions depends not only on the quality of the decision process, but also on a mixture of implementation and chance that is difficult to disentangle. The closest thing to a guarantee of a good outcome is a good "thinking/decision process" followed by good implementation!

    The outcome or "results" do matter --- but judging solely on results is a serious deterrent to taking risks that may be necessary to making the right decisions. Simply put, the way decisions are evaluated affects the way decisions are made!

    The public would be better served, and their elected County officials, would be able to do a more effective job, if government customer service judgments were based on the quality of decision-making instead of focusing solely on outcomes or results!

      [2] A good decision-making process --- Dividing the decision-making process into four stages can provide a reliable guide for any decision process, since consciously or not, every decision-maker goes through them. They are:

        (1) Framing --- It determines the viewpoint from which decision-makers look at the issue and sets parameters for which aspects of the situation they consider important and which they do not. It determines in a preliminary way what criteria would cause them to prefer one option over the other.

        (2) Gathering Intelligence --- Intelligence-gatherers must seek the knowable facts and options and produce reasonable evaluations of 'unknowables" to enable decision-making in the face of uncertainty. It's important that they avoid such pitfalls as overconfidence in what they currently believe and the tendency to seek only information that confirms their beliefs.

        (3) Coming to Conclusions --- Sound "framing" and good intelligence do not guarantee a wise decision.Staff cannot consistently make good decisions using seat-of-the-pants judgment alone, even with excellent data in front of them. A systematic approach will lead to more accurate choices! It usually does so far more efficiently than hours spent in unorganized thinking. This is particularly true in group settings.

        (4) Learning from Experience --- Only by systematically learning from the results of past decisions can decision-makers continually improve their skills. Further, if learning begins when a decision is first implemented, early refinements to the decision or implementation plan can be made that could mean the difference between success or failure!

      In real organizational life, the process is not quite as linear --- or distinct --- as these four stages suggest. Sometimes, information discovered in the "intelligence-gathering" stage may inspire you to go back and reframe your decision. Moreover, a complex problem may entail a series of smaller decisions, each of which may involve several framing decisions, several intelligence-gathering efforts, and several coming-to-conclusion steps.

      [3] Deciding How to Decide --- The four decision stages consume almost all of good decision process. Expert decision-makers, however, know they must devote part of their time to making choices about the decision process itself, choices which can determine the character of the entire effort! Remember, "A problem well stated is a problem half solved" (John Dewey). The following general questions should be asked at the beginning of the decision-making process:

        (1) What is the crux of the issue that I am facing?

        (2) How do I believe decisions like this one should made?

        (3) How much time should I spend on each stage --- as a first guess?

        (4) Can I draw on feedback from related decisons and experiences that I have faced in the past to make this decision better?

        ( 5) What are my own relevant strengths and weaknesses?

      [4] Worksheet --- Crucial Questions for "Deciding How to Decide" --- These questions are especially important in group settings since changing the direction of a group can be like turning a battleship --- slow and awkward!

        (1) What is the crux or primary difficulty in this issue? Which of the four stages in the decision process will be most important?

        (2) In general, how should decisions like this one be made --- such as alone or in groups, intuitively or analytically? Where do my own strengths and weaknesses lie? Where do I honestly need help?


    1) The power of frames (p19-38)

    2) Creating winning frames (p39-59)

    INTERLUDE --- A --- Improving your options (p60-72)


    4) Avoiding distortion and bias (p75-100)

    5) Intelligence in the face of uncertainty (p101-124)

    INTERLUDE --- B --- Technologies for aiding decisions (p125-130)


    6) Choosing --- a "pyramid" of approaches (p133-158)

    7) Managing group decisions (p159-186)

    INTERLUDE --- C --- Implementing your chosen option (p187-194)


    8) The personal challenges of learning (p197-216)

    9) Learning in organizations (p217-238)

    10) Bringing it all home --- the decisions of (p239-262)

EPILOGUE --- Learning into action (p263-266)

APPENDIX --- A --- "Decision Audits" (p267-270)

APPENDIX --- B --- Organizational changes in decision-making (p271-274)

NOTES (p275-319)

INDEX (p321-329)

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