Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Jul 10, 2002 - Business & Economics - 350 pages
Based on the his analysis of 400 strategic decisions made by top managers in areas such as products and services, pricing and markets, personnel policy, technology acquisition, and strategic reorganization, Nutt estimates that two-thirds of all decisions are based on failure-prone or questionable tactics. He uses the fifteen monumental decision-making disasters to illustrate the potential consequences of these common tactical errors and traps and then details successful alternative decision-making approaches.
Why Decisions Fail translates decades of award-winning research into practical terms that managers can use to improve their own decision-making practices.

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Why decisions fail: avoiding the blunders and traps that lead to debacles

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Nutt (management, Ohio State Univ.) has spent 20 years collecting and studying more than 400 decisions made by upper-level management in corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations. Here, he ... Read full review

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Analyzing over 400 strategic decisions, “Why Decisions Fail: Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles” gives readers a holistic view of the decision-making process while maintaining a focus on common mistakes made by managers. Nutt uses historical business examples to highlight three critical aspects of faulty decision-making practices: rushing to make judgments, misusing available resources and failing to use best practices.
Centering on the moment where things went wrong, in each business case Nutt provides a succinct and easily readable summary, layering in additional details that outline the measures each company could have taken to avoid a decision blunder. In pointing out what not to do, Nutt employs a unique viewpoint to turn classic examples into fresh learning experiences. Examples of these historic business disasters include the famous Ford Pinto safety issue, Disney’s opening of a new European theme park outside of Paris, and financing the construction of the Denver International Airport. By providing just the right amount of detail, each case captures the reader’s attention and accurately translates complex scenarios into practical terms. There are these case studies that elevate the book to a three-star rating.
Nutt’s ability to use simple language is what distinguishes this book from similar research-based text. Instead of wading through technical jargon, the reader can focus on applying the fundamental lessons from each chapter to the case studies through easy-to-understand text. The inclusion of a “Key Points” section at the end of each chapter provides the reader with a comprehensive picture of the issues and subsequent advice discussed in each chapter. By ending the book with a summative final chapter, Nutt leaves the reader with a clear understanding of the text’s main takeaways.
However, Nutt’s intelligible verbiage does not completely save the reader from losing interest throughout his repetitive narrative. Nutt uses the ideas from prior cases multiple times without seeming to include additional insights. In our opinion, each chapter would have strongly benefited from being centered around a single case. Currently, with Nutt’s strong case overviews and clear “Key Points,” a reader might be better served by focusing on the connection between these key points and details of each case and as a result skimming the remaining text in-between.
In conclusion, if you can stick through Nutt’s somewhat convoluted, repetitive narrative and correctly connect the key points with each case, you will find yourself with a better understanding of how to approach decisions and, most importantly, a clear idea what not to do as a manager.



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