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Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right [Kindle Edition]

Thomas H. Davenport , Brook Manville , Laurence Prusak
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Your guide to making better decisions

Despite the dizzying amount of data at our disposal today—and an increasing reliance on analytics to make the majority of our decisions—many of our most critical choices still come down to human judgment. This fact is fundamental to organizations whose leaders must often make crucial decisions: to do this they need the best available insights.

In Judgment Calls, authors Tom Davenport and Brook Manville share twelve stories of organizations that have successfully tapped their data assets, diverse perspectives, and deep knowledge to build an organizational decision-making capability—a competence they say can make the difference between success and failure. This book introduces a model that taps the collective judgment of an organization so that the right decisions are made, and the entire organization profits.

Through the stories in Judgment Calls, the authors—both of them seasoned management thinkers and advisers—make the case for the wisdom of organizations and suggest ways to use it to best advantage. Each chapter tells a unique story of one dilemma and its ultimate resolution, bringing into high relief one key to the power of collective judgment. Individually, these stories inspire and instruct; together, they form a model for building an organizational capacity for broadly based, knowledge-intensive decision making.

You’ve read The Wisdom of Crowds and Competing on Analytics. Now read Judgment Calls. You, and your organization, will make better decisions.

Editorial Reviews


“provides a convincing illustration…laying out a usable model…in the area of collaborative decision making.” — CIO Digest

Judgment Calls makes a strong effort to raise decision making into less of an individual basis and more of a cultural practice within a team. It makes a solid follow up to analytic books such as Jim Sterne’s Social Media Metrics, Performance Marketing with Google Analytics, and of course, one of Davenport’s earlier books Analytics at Work.” — Small Business Trends (

Judgment Calls is driven by the 12 stories, each of which ends with reflections on how the organization successfully made the decision. “…it does offer ideas for judgment calls at your own workplace.” — The Globe & Mail

“It is…wonderful to have Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right by Thomas H. Davenport and Brook Manville with twelve magnificently diverse parables of instances where good judgment was exercised and an organization “got it right” —

Selected as one of “PW’s Top 10: Business Books.”Publisher’s Weekly

“Those who have the opportunity to re-shape any organization of any size, the way it works and develops, and the way people lead and can be led more effectively will find great ideas and encouragement in this book. It is worth reading and re-reading.” — HR Zone

ADVANCE PRAISE for Judgment Calls:

“By integrating the lessons of twelve momentous decisions with a freshly imaginative perspective, Judgment Calls is a foundational contribution to the art and science of decision making.” — Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration, University of Southern California; author, Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership

How leaders and organizations approach decision-making is one of the most critical variables to succeeding. Judgment Calls is a must read for anyone that wants to ensure that their organization is using effective decision-making as strategic and competitive advantage. — Allan C. Golston, President, U.S. Program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

“Tom Davenport and Brook Manville have brilliantly written a collection of stories that provide both the proof and the guidance needed for organizations to make better decisions that depend on the skills, knowledge, and judgments of groups, rather than the oversold myth of individual heroics, which is ill suited for our ambiguous and fast-changing world.” — Douglas K. Smith, coauthor, The Wisdom of Teams and The Discipline of Teams

Judgment Calls illustrates how nurturing an analytics culture improves organizational judgment and translates into better outcomes. Every leader can benefit from the ‘iterative, deliberative decision processes’ highlighted in the case studies. Combining analytical insights and stories of collaboration among executives, engineers, marketers, partners, and customers, this book provides a winning formula for making more creative and innovative decisions.” — Jim Davis, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, SAS; coauthor, Information Revolution: Using the Information Evolution Model to Grow Your Business

“This is a book that stands up to common sense, while breaking through the age-old image of hero decision makers. In story after story, the authors show how great decisions in a wide range of industry situations have required and benefited from many perspectives and iterations over extended periods of time.” — Jon R. Katzenbach, Senior Partner, Booz & Company

“At last! A business book that's smart and great fun to read. Every leader—especially aspiring leaders—needs to read this book.” — Alan M. Webber, cofounder, Fast Company; author, Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self

About the Author

Thomas H. Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Chair at Babson College, a research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business, and a Senior Advisor to Deloitte Analytics. He is the author or coauthor of fourteen books, including Competing on Analytics. Brook Manville is an independent consultant and the author of several publications on issues of strategy and organizational development. He previously served as Chief Learning Officer for Saba Software and the United Way of America, and before that was McKinsey & Company's first Director of Knowledge Management.

Product Details

  • File Size: 523 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 142215811X
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (March 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007BOBZ5C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #550,639 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Human judgment is frail and fettered, no matter which humans the judgment comes from, according to Thomas Davenport and Brook Manville in this book. The antidote to relying on the imperfect judgment of one fallible person is for organisations to build decision-making capacity, tapping into the expertise of a broad range of people.

Rather than using empirical research, the authors use stories from 12 different organisations to illustrate their thesis. Part One contains stories about participative problem solving processes from NASA, a home-building company, and McKinsey & Company. Part Two contains stories about the use of technology and analytics to aid decision making, from a health-care organisation, a technology company and a school system. Part Three contains stories about organisational culture guiding decision-making, from ancient Athens, the Vanguard Group, and EMC. Part Four has stories about leaders with participative decision-making styles, from a media company, a philanthropic organisation and a niche product company.

It may well be a lot more difficult to make an interesting story out of a participative decision-making process than out of a decision made by a lone hero, but I personally found some of the stories unconvincing. For example, the NASA story relates to a decision with a positive outcome, contrasting with earlier NASA decisions with disastrous outcomes. However, the bad and good decisions all seem to have been reached through participative processes; the difference seems to be more in the weight given to different opinions than in the participative nature of the processes. On the other hand, I found the stories about strong organisational culture and participative leadership styles both more interesting and more persuasive.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Judgement Calls is the new book by Tom Davenport and Brook Manville takes on the fundamental issues of how organizations are applying judgement, collaboration, and participatory decision making into their organizations. Davenport and Manville present their argument in the form of stories surrounding major decisions at the organizational, cultural and individual level. Their approach is ideal for capturing the qualitative difference in making group judgments. The authors see this as the fourth era of thinking about organizational decision making and one in which the importance of judgement is acknowledged.

The authors see four major trends in play for exercising organizational judgement. First is the recognition that none of us is as smart as all of us. The second is that you need to tap into both the wisdom and leadership of the crowd. Data and analytics remains important. Finally that information technology is an enabled of the increased participation and analytical decision support required for organizational judgement.

The book is recommended for executives and managers seeking to understand, internalize and perhaps adopt this more collaborative style of decision making.

Davenport and Manville use stories to illustrate the central elements they have observed for effective group decision making. These involve aspects of information, knowledge management and decision making processes. The book contains a wide range of stories from modern high tech companies like EMC and Cognizant to historic organizational decisions made in Athens, and public sector/service cases from the Charlotte - Mecklenburg school district to the Wallace foundation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insider details but flawed analysis March 25, 2013
Judgment Calls by Thomas H. Davenport and Brook Manville examines twelve mission critical decisions made by public and private organizations for the key aspects of the decision process employed and analytical approaches used. Through this exploration, Thomas and Brook discuss organizational factors influencing successful decision-making including:

- Participative Problem-Solving Processes
- Technology and Analytics
- Power and Culture
- Leaders Setting the Right Context

They assert that effective employment of these factors enhances organizational judgment and therefore its decision-making capability. The twelve detailed examples within their book serve as a roadmap for those seeking to further develop their organization's decision-making ability.

I believe in the inherent value of reading books, such as Judgment Calls, that provide deep insights to the decision-making processes of respected organizations during critical situations. Thomas and Brook obviously had access to the senior leaders at each organization profiled; enabling them to garner the though processes and reasoning behind the decisions being made.

Valuable as it may be, I believe there are flaws in Thomas and Brook's approach to ascertaining the key factors behind successful decisions. Most prevalent among these flaws is an apparent assumption that successful outcomes were the result of a sound decision-making approach and the correction of the organization's past decision-making shortfalls; not the result, in part or whole, of good fortune or luck. (Note that Thomas and Brook did examine some failed decisions of examined organizations, however, I found those reviews to be incomplete when compared with StrategyDriven`s analysis.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read.
Published 5 months ago by Tom Stoll
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a very good book
Judgement Calls describes 12 corporate stories to drive hard the point of collective decision-making. I recommend it to people in mid-management to top-management positions.
Published 22 months ago by Hetal Shah
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-reasoned treatise on the value of group decision making
Many executives make decisions without consulting experts, weighing facts, considering options or engaging in thoughtful analysis. They trust their intuition and act accordingly. Read more
Published on December 5, 2012 by Rolf Dobelli
4.0 out of 5 stars An "Organisational Spring" perhaps?
This book is about decision making and particularly about how organisational knowledge can be harnessed and used in a collaborative approach to the big decisions organisations need... Read more
Published on May 22, 2012 by Robert Selden
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Build a "Great Organization"
"It is only in our decisions that we are important," said Jean-Paul Sartre. While he was speaking of personal decisions, the same may be said of organizational decisions. Read more
Published on April 26, 2012 by Veritas
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why to take full and systematic advantage of technology and...
To introduce this review, I call upon Peter Drucker: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all. Read more
Published on April 18, 2012 by Robert Morris
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