Business books normally concentrate on clarity, being concise and providing case studies. The business novel, one that puts ideas into the context of a plot, are rare and too often devolve down into contrived situations, flat characters and preachy plots. Not this book. The best business novel around it Goldratt’s classic, the Goal. Dennis Bakke’s The Decision Maker comes close to that standard and is highly recommended.
The Decision Maker is a business novel that presents new ideas on the way organizations work. It’s a book that describes MedTech, a fictitious company where the new owners decide to treat people differently. Rather than assuming people are human inputs into company processes, the protagonist assumes that their people are unique, creative and trustworthy to make decisions on their own rather than deferring decisions and responsibility to management. Supported by an “advice process” the book then illustrates how this process works for good and for ill.
The book is a good read, fast paced, clear and illustrative of the ideas of a flatter, more decision oriented organization. If you are looking to understand what it means to go beyond empowering people, then this is a good book to consider.
Overall, highly recommended as a way to begin to think differently about the nature of work, management, responsibility and accountability. This does not mean that the book does not have its strengths and challenges, see below. Overall it’s a good introduction of a powerful idea in a novel and engaging way. Well worth your time to get the ball rolling, but not enough meat to call you into action.
The book provides the background story and support developing the ideas and principles of decision-making. The principles are exercised across different types of decisions and different situations.
The employees and situations at MedTech are real enough to lend credibility to the situation and the story.
The ideas behind the decision making process are simple, clear and readily illustrated through telling a story rather than a dry business book recitation.
There is no coach, no person who helps the reader understand what is behind the ideas which limits their credibility as the concepts appear to emerge from Jim’s mind in whole cloth. This was a great strength of the Goal and it is a noticeable weakness here.
Everyone wins and all accountabilities are minor. Sure the company faces a significant issue, but the answer is simple and clear making the stress on the system and new ideas rather weak. The fact that everything works out in the end and there are no real losers in the story weakens the power and practicality of the argument.
The ideas behind empowerment, democratizing decision making and driving employee engagement are more complex, compelling and challenging than the book presents. Readers should think about the implications on their culture and company, as this book does not provide enough detail and discussion to drive implementation.
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