Review: You're About to Make a Terrible Mistake: How Biases Distort Decision-Making and What You Can Do to Fight Them
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake is a book about why organizations make bad decisions, and how to create processes and environments where we can make better ones, understanding the value of process and collaboration over any specific individual’s leadership.
Much of the advice here will seem familiar if you have studied ideas about how we make decisions but the context of strategic decision making is new. The audience and examples are geared towards strategic business decisions, but this will give you insight into how you and others make decisions that might not be optimal in all aspects of your life.
The advice is obvious and common sense in retrospect, but obvious and common sense doesn’t always mean visible and common. I’ve come across few groups that follow even the general principles here, much less the entire framework.
Sibony references agile organizations, and while his meaning isn’t the same as “Agile” in the context of software development, If you are familiar with Agile Software Development practices, many of the concepts, and some of the practices may seem familiar. Agile Retrospective frameworks, for example, follow a process framework that helps teams avoid many of the problematic decision making biases.
A recurring theme in the book is the importance of process and collaboration over any specific individual’s leadership. In my experience process can make the difference between success and failure for a team, and this book drives the value of process and collaboration home. And Sibony notes that circumstance plays a role: The same good plan can succeed or fail depending upon factors beyond your control, and the same bad plan might work surprisingly well if one is lucky. Sibony tells us how to set up processes so that our big strategic decisions factor in these factors so that we have a reasonable sense of risks involved.
A key part of a good decision process is the definition and role of a leader. Sibony points out that much of the advice he presents goes counter to the model of the certain, definitive, action-oriented leader. For better decisions we need to to step away from that idea. While final decisions may rest with an individual leader, the process to get there must be collaborative.
The book ends with a summary of the key concepts, and good bibliography, and notes. You may well find your self finishing this book with a much longer reading list than when you started.
Whether you are a senior manager, a team lead, or active in a volunteer organization, the principles in this book will help you create frameworks to enable better decisions. And as an individual you will gain insight how to understand how others make decisions, as well as how you might think about how you make important decisions.