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Judgment Calls: Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams that Got Them Right

August 8, 2013 • LEADERSHIP, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT

In Judgment Calls: 12 Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams that Got Them Right, Thomas Davenport and Brook Manville preach the virtues of Great Organizations — organizations that build the ongoing capability to make great decisions. These organizations employ sound decision making processes, including investigating multiple alternatives, seeking out dissent, and fostering a decision culture of inquiry rather than advocacy. Below, the authors consider good organizational judgment in the case of Cognizant Technology Solutions.

More often than any of us might care to admit, the course of human affairs relies on great judgment. History still puts the Great Man (or, less common, the Great Woman) on a prominent pedestal. Management theorists still praise the solitary, heroic leader. We offer this book as an antidote for, and even the counter to, the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance. Instead of Great Men, we’ll preach the virtues of Great Organizations — organizations that build the ongoing capability to make great decisions again and again, reflecting the judgment to more consistently than not make “great calls” in difficult situations. Great Organizations expand the number of people involved in important decisions, because they know that while individual humans are fallible, in the aggregate they are usually more effective. They tap into their employees’ (and customers’ and partners’) broad range of expertise, and they ask for their opinions; they deliberate and problem-solve toward a better answer, instead of “going with the gut.” They also employ data and analysis to make decisions, because they know that on the whole, the scientific method is the single best guide to decisions and actions the world has ever known. They employ sound decision- making processes, including investigating multiple alternatives, seeking out dissent, and fostering a decision culture of inquiry rather than advocacy. When such organizations employ these approaches on an ongoing basis, we call it good organizational judgment.

A sea change is under way in many organizations today, as we observe where and from whom judgment is valued, and how it gets exercised in contemporary decision making.

Patterns of Change in Today’s Organisations

A sea change is under way in many organizations today, as we observe where and from whom judgment is valued, and how it gets exercised in contemporary decision making. The changes—decision making more among frontline workers, more distributed, more team based, and so forth—are consistent with the decline of the Great Man and the rise of the Great Organization and good organizational judgment. At least four major trends are beginning to shape a new pattern that we think will define good decision making in the future:



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