“It’s the quality of decisions that determines the success or failure of any organization.”
Can’t argue with that …
Dennis Bakke, who many of us will remember from The Joy of Work, has a rather radical approach to improving the quality of decisions in our organizations.
Let people decide …
Sounds innocent enough, until you realize the extent to which Bakke recommends that we let go of decision-making.
THE STYLE …
I have not always enjoyed narrative style business and leadership books …
Maybe I get caught up in the story and miss the message. Sometimes the author has great knowledge, but is not adept at telling stories, creating characters, spinning the narrative in an engaging way.
I am very happy to report that Bakke is NOT one of the above. “The Decision Maker” is a leadership fable about the journey taken by several interesting characters toward
Here’s where Bakke starts:
“ We’ve got a lot of rules, because we assume people can’t think on their own. We’ve got managers and consequences to keep us in line, because we assume people are going to break the rules we give them … we take grown people, and we treat them like kids. Not even like good kids. Like kids we’re pretty sure can’t be trusted.”
As I said earlier, I normally am not a fan of narrative business fables, but this book has changed my mind.
THE CONTENT …
Here’s my paraphrased perception of the gist of Bakke’s contentions about leaders and decisions:
1) The leader’s job is to choose someone to decide.
2) The person chosen needs to gather information from others.
3) The person chosen decides.
It’s that last one that makes the difference between this and most other leadership decision books. We are all familiar with the idea that the leader creates opportunities for others to experience leading through decision-making. We know that effective decisions are based on careful consideration of data and other information that relates to the situation.
… but actually letting the person chosen decide?
Sounds great, until the decision is important or the person’s decision is not the one we would have made.
Not that Bakke is all squishy about giving away the decision-making authority:
“It’s not really your decision if there aren’t consequences to it.”
Bakke uses the narrative form to expand on his general idea in detail, over time, in an organizational setting and with characters that most of us will easily recognize.
THE VALUE …
“If the person who makes the decision doesn’t have any responsibility, the decision doesn’t mean anything.”
This is where our best intentions are waylaid by our strong sense for self-preservation and the perceptions outlined in the first quote about not really trusting people.
Bakke contends that this is the heart of truly effective leadership: The ability to COMPLETELY TRUST those who you lead.
The best thing about this book is that it is based on Bakke’s experiences at several organizations where the concept of the decision-maker was implemented. He includes the pitfalls and the cautions in parts of the story which focus on the many levels of resistance to the idea. This story has the ring of truth.
Toward the end of the tale, one of the people who was most resistant (a co-owner of the company) describes their new reality thusly:
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this. A company where people get treated like people. Where everyone’s not just the same. Where we expect people to think and learn. Where they get to make their own decisions. Not just the execs and the creative types. The guys on the line, and all the way up.”
Sounds good to me …
Spend a few dollars and a few hours with The Decision Maker and you may just experience a birth or rebirth of hope that we can all work in companies like this.
Enjoying the opportunity to read a good story and learn something of value to boot in the Heartland ….
Disclaimer: As is often the case, I received a copy of this book for review. This did not influence my perception of the value of this book. IF I let a free book influence me, I’d be reviewing trashy romance novels and science fiction.
- The Decision Makers: A book review (blogs.gartner.com)
- How Do You Make Decisions? (officefiction.com)