Drucker: Decision Metrics

This is the 9th and final post on Peter Drucker’s book “The Effective Exedcutive”.

The last part of Peter’s book is perhaps the most difficult. Sure, making sure that you manage time well, seeing strengths and learning how to focus can be challenging. But we all need help in making better decisions.

Peter Drucker gives us the elements of decision making.


Right – it is a lot. As I said, if this were easy, life would be easy. But ok. are there some guidelines to go about this better? What kind of procedure to follow? Peter says “yes” and here we go!

1. Be sensitive to opinions and questions. These things are full of value propositions. Don’t fall into the trap of just looking for facts that fit whatever opinions that you may already have. Listen for new opinions and new questions. Even if you disagree, and perhaps especially if you disagree, these things have value

2. Ask what you are measuring? What do you pay attention to and why? Does what you pay attention to connect with BIG success? Most of us (mea culpa) measure very little and think about measuring even less. Peter wrote this rather startling sentence

The effective decision maker assumes that the traditional measurement is not the right measurement. Otherwise, there would generally be no need  for a decision, a simple adjustment would do.

And he wrote this

Finding the appropriate measurement is … not a mathematical exercise. It is a risk taking judgment.

And of course, poor decision makers blind themselves to the risks involved in their situation. Why? Because they don’t measure.

3. Get feedback about what is wrong. Ask people who are in a position to know. For example, your clients and your lower level staff people. Be open to their input. Ask them also how they measure what is wrong. And once again, finding disagreement is not a problem.

Peter gives this example — from Al Slone (former CEO of General Motors) at a committee meeting where everyone agreed on what to do

I propose that we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.

Peter writes “imagination needs to be challenged to be stimulated”. An interesting idea.

4. Ask — is this decision really needed? A decision is like surgery. An extreme intervention into a system. You don’t do it for fun. You do it because not doing it will lead to trouble. If nothing bad will happen if we don’t make the decision, then the decision is clear “hurry up and do nothing”.

Ok – then one last thing – after all the above – just do it. Make the damn decision and live with it. Don’t delay! Get it done! If it is a mistake, you will find out soon enough.

If you want more on decision making, check out this podcast from Dan Pink talking with the Heath brothers about their book “Decisive”


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