Friday, April 8, 2011

Take Two Before Bedtime: The New Wonder Drug From Bain & Company

[My review of DECIDE & DELIVER by Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins and Paul Rogers]
Your organization…can be the standout, the one that people point to, the one where everyone wants to work, the one that decides and delivers. Your organization can accomplish great things – beginning with its next decision.
What this book’s authors and their colleagues have done is fascinating. They’ve taken everything Bain has ever learned about [1.] making great decisions and [2.] the makings of great companies – synthesized them – and come up with a nifty, logically consistent and easy-to-digest approach that (they say) pretty much ensures Complete & Total Organizational Good Health.**

I really, really like the central premise: that a company can learn over time to increase the effectiveness of the decisions it makes, and, in the process, get all its moving parts working together to produce great results. I highly, highly recommend reading all about it.

Having said that…

I’d still feel compelled, if I were a business doctor, to offer a few words to the wise to those considering a decision-centered approach.

  • First thing I’d say is you probably shouldn’t let the fact that it’s been boiled down to a 5-step process (in just 146 pages) mislead you to believe your company could master it overnight. Depending on your current state, you might still need to tackle lots and lots of sub-steps.
  • I’d say, too, that it couldn’t hurt to keep in mind that the authors work for a gigantic consulting firm and there are no regulatory restrictions (like the ones placed on giant pharmaceutical firms, for example) on what they can say.

Whoa. What’s that about? Only that a small handful o’ their statements caused my b.s. meter to blip, statements to the effect that “other attempts to reshape organizations” and “traditional approaches to organization” – i.e., competing approaches – are inferior in one way or another to theirs. Those struck me as vague and not well substantiated. Just not up to the high quality standards of the rest of the book.

I like it best when the language is careful and understated. Take my favorite line as an example: “And decisions offer a practical point of entry into what would otherwise be a large and potentially overwhelming task.” That, to me, is the big selling point. That’s their ingenious contribution.

That’s a pill, if you will, I could confidently prescribe.

**when used as directed, of course!

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