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The ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion (judgment. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/judgment (accessed: September 30, 2007).

Source: Tichy, Noel M. (2007), Warren G. Bennis, Making Judgment Calls, Harvard Business Review, October, 2007, pp 94 - 102
A leader's most important role in any organization is making good judgments -- well-informed, wise decisions that produce the desired outcomes.

Judgement domains --
Leaders most important calls reside in one of three domains:

  • people judgments -- getting the right people on your team and developing up-and-comers who themselves demonstrate good judgment
  • strategy judgments -- judgment behind the critical decisions with large and long-lasting implications
  • crisis judgments -- judgments made under duress

Judgment is a process --
Leaders who regularly demonstrate good judgment are not having a series of terrific (or lucky) ""aha"" moments. They make their calls, decisions, in the middle of a process that unfolds over three pahses.

Phases of the judgment process --

  • Preparation -- during which leaders sense and frame the issue that will demand a judgment call, and align their team members so that everyone understands why the call is important.
  • the Call itself -- the moment of decision.
  • Execution -- making it happen while learning and adjusting along the way. Leaders may not be able to change their calls, but they can almost always change course during execution if they are open to feedback and committed to follow-through.
  • REDO loops -- technically not a stage, but an adjustment made by retracing earlier steps when new information comes available indicating judgment can be improved.

Good leaders' steps through the phases of the judgment process --

  • Preparation phase
    • Sense and Identify
      • Picks up on signals in the environment
      • Is energized about the future
    • Frame and Name
      • Cuts through complexity to get to the essence of an issue
      • Sets clear parameters
      • Provides a context and establishes a shared language
    • Mobilize and Align
      • Identifies important stakeholders
      • Engages and energized stakeholders
      • Taps best ideas from anywhere
      • REDO - goes back to Frame and Name if warranted
  • Call phase
    • Call
      • Makes a clear yes/no call
      • Thoroughly explains the call
      • REDO - goes back to Mobilize and Align if warranted
  • Execution phase
    • Make It Happen
      • Stays involved during execution
      • Supports others who are involved
      • Sets clear milestones
    • Learn and adjust
      • Asks for continuous feedback
      • Listens to feedback
      • Makes adjustments
      • REDO - goes back to Make It Happen if warranted

Poor leaders' steps through the phases of the judgment process --

  • Preparation phase
    • Sense and Identify
      • Cannot read the environment
      • Fails to acknowledge reality
      • Does not follow gut instincts
    • Frame and Name
      • Incorrectly frames the issue
      • Does not define the ultimate goal
      • Remains stuck in an old paradigm
    • Mobilize and Align
      • Does not set clear expectations
      • Brings the wrong people on board
      • Does not correct previous mistakes
  • Call phase
    • Call
      • Dillydallies when it is time to make a call
      • Fails to understand how issues intersect and how the call will play out
  • Execution phase
    • Make It Happen
      • Walks away once the call is made
      • Does not gather important information
      • Does not understand what good execution requires
    • Learn and adjust
      • Does not measure outcomes
      • Does not respond to resistance in the organization
      • Lacks operating mechanisms to make necessary changes

Traditional view vs. process view of judgment --
The distinction between leadership judgment viewed traditionally and judgment viewed as a process is apparent across various characteristics --

  • Time
    • Traditional view - Single moment, static
    • Process view - Dynamic process that unfolds
  • Thought process
    • Traditional view - Rational, analytic
    • Process view - Rational and analytic but also emotional and full of human drama
  • Variables
    • Traditional view - Knowable, quantifiable
    • Process view - Often outside of a leader's domain; may relate to the call indirectly
  • Focus
    • Traditional view - Individual: A heroic leader makes a tough call
    • Process view - Organizational: The leader guides a process but is influenced by many actors and subsequent judgement
  • Success criteria
    • Traditional view - Making the best decision on the basis of known data
    • Process view - Acting and reacting through a judgment process that guides others to a successful outcome
  • Actors
    • Traditional view - Top-down: The leader makes the key decisions
    • Process view - Top-down-up: Execution influences how judgments are reshaped
  • Transparency
    • Traditional view - Closed system in which decision makers hold information and do not explain their rationale
    • Process view - Open process in which mistakes are shared and learning is used to make adjustments
  • Capability building
    • Traditional view - Unconsciously happens through experience or luck; reserved for top leadership
    • Process view - Deliberately encouraged at all levels

Types of knowledge guide judgments -- Most judgment calls arise in the domains of people, strategy, and crisis with the added dimensions of self, social network, organizational, and contextual wisdom. This multidimensional wisdom forms a ""complete"" set of wisdom that allows a leader to choose the best path forward. Good judgment is grounded-in all three domains and throughout the process-in four types of knowledge: self, social network, organizational, and contextual. Following are the four dimensions of wisdom defined by domain --

  • Self wisdom -- How do you learn? Do you face reality? Do you watch and listen? Are you willing to improve?
    • People domain -- Personal judgments about your ambitions, role, and capabilities.
    • Strategy domain -- Personal judgments regarding your career and life strategy.
    • Crisis domain -- Personal judgments made during times of crisis and introspections
  • Social network wisdom -- Do you know how to build a strong team? How do you learn from team members? How do you teach them to make better judgments?
    • People domain -- Judgments about who is on and off the team.
    • Strategy domain -- Judgments about how your team evolves to meet business demands.
    • Crisis domain -- Judgments about how and with whom your team operates during a crisis.
  • Organizational wisdom -- Do you know how to draw on the strengths of others throughout the organization? Can you create broad-scale processes by teaching people to make smart judgments?
    • People domain -- Judgments about organizational systems for ensuring quality and capability of people in the organization.
    • Strategy domain -- Judgments about how to engage and align all organizational levels in strategy execution.
    • Crisis domain -- Judgments about how to work with the organization through times of crisis.
  • Contextual wisdom -- Do you know how to create smart interactions among myriad stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, government, stockholders, competitors, and interest groups?
    • People domain -- Judgments about which stakeholders are important and how to engage them.
    • Strategy domain -- Judgments about engaging stakeholders to frame, define, and execute strategy.
    • Crisis domain -- Judgments about how stakeholders both inside and outside the organization connect to resolve crises