In theory: Think again

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak

The mettle of every charity manager will be acutely tested over the coming months; there's nothing like a severe economic downturn to sort the managerial wheat from the chaff.

In a new book called Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions And How To Keep It From Happening To You, business boffins Jo Whitehead, Andrew Campbell and Sydney Finkelstein tackle the problem of why excellent managers sometimes make terrible decisions. Their theory centres on four "red flag conditions" that lead to errors in the way we make our decisions: "misleading past experiences" - when we are faced with an unfamiliar situation, especially if it appears familiar; "misleading pre-judgements" - when our thinking has been primed by previous judgements even before we begin to evaluate a new situation; "inappropriate self-interest" - when you have a vested interest in the outcome of a decision; and finally, "inappropriate attachments", which are attachments you might feel towards colleagues when considering the outcome of a decision.

The authors say these weaknesses can be overcome using four safeguards: collating lots of data and doing a lot of analysis; debating and challenging decisions; strengthening the governance process; and closely monitoring the outcome of the decision and rectifying errors as they happen.

If this seems like too much to compute, just go back to the trusty coin toss.

- Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today

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