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Decision-Making today builds on research showing that decisions fail half of the time. In business, the top casualties of a poor decision-making process are reputation, long-term growth, employee morale, productivity, revenue and profitability. Our goal is to promote more effective, ethical decision making.

Review of “Tackling Complexity”

Tackling Complexity“Tackling Complexity is a new book by Gilbert Probst and Andrea M. Bassi. It is published by Greenleaf Publishing and they provided the book for review. Initially, I was excited as I have read a number of books about decision-making and even wrote my own, “Taking Aim for Better Decision-Making”.

Sadly, I wasn’t very far into the book until I realized that there is a huge difference between how ivory tower academics approach decision-making and how every day practitioners approach decision-making.

Probst and Bassi suggest that, “our decisions often fail” but they fail to recognize the magnitude of the problem as reported by Paul C. Nutt in his book, “Why Decisions Fail”.  After 20 years of research, Nutt came to the conclusion that, “decisions fail half of the time”. This is a huge problem that deserves our attention and practical approaches that will improve outcomes.

Probst and Bassi give lip service to the idea that there is a difference between complicated systems and complex systems wherein there are often dynamics beyond our control. They then proceed to explain their systemic approach which is highly analytical and top end driven.

Stuart Crainer in his book “The 75 Greatest Management Decisions Ever Made” wrote, “Alluring though they are the trouble with decision-making theories is that reality is often more confused and messy than a neat model can allow for.” My research leads me to believe that all analytical decision-making models are subject to imperfect knowledge, unintended consequences and luck. While not very scientific, it has led me to believe as does Paul Nutt that the best practices have a flow that can be related to the appreciative inquiry stages outlined by Copperrider and Srivastva, 1987.

J. Edward Russo and Paul J.H. Schoemaker in their book, “Winning Decisions” talked about how traditional organizations viewed implementation secondary to planning and analysis while the newer approach places more weight on learning and adjustment in real time. for me this has been proven by the iteration process common to most successful internet sites.

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported on The Inner Workings of the Executive Brain. This fascinating piece of research supports the words of Peter Drucker when he said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.

As a practitioner, rather than tackling complexity, I am going to recognize imperfect knowledge, unintended consequences and luck as not fitting into a nice analytical model. I am going to incorporate appreciative inquiry into my decision-making process to the extent that I am going to define a preferred future and then figure out how to get there. Having done those things I am going to test, modify and iterate until I have learned enough to successfully implement my preferred future.

Life is greatly influenced by heart and gut which are impossible to analyze. Feel free to use an analytical model if you like, but I am going to use a more human approach that is based on adaptability and learning.

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    head-and-sholders  Robert Cannon

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