Making decisions: aside from results, improve process and match to results

Human nature what it is, we look first at the results of a lawyer’s decision. For example, in Fulbright & Jaworski’s Second Annual Litigation Trends Survey (2005 at 18), the top measure of law department success in litigation is “results.” Managing litigation consists of a complex series of inter-related decisions.

That concentration on outcomes, however, misses two other sensible aspects of decision-making. “A good decision process should include a mechanism for testing decisions against outcomes” (Financial Times, July 18, 2005 at 9). Retroactively assess the thought process to the consequence. How the lawyer came to make the crucial decision should count in the overall assessment of effectiveness, not just the result. The quality of law department judgment calls can be improved if managers pay more attention to decision-making processes. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach it orderly and objective steps to decide to jump. (See my posts of March 18, 2005 on intuition, Sept. 4, 2005 on using metrics in decisions and Sept. 10, 2005 on mental models.)

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