The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time; How Dennis Bakke build AES into a Fortune 200 global power company with 27,000 people in 27 countries.

The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time [Hardcover]

Dennis Bakke (Author)

DecisionMaker Cover-Perseus.indd

Book Description

Publication Date: March 5, 2013

Who makes the important decisions in your organization? Strategy, product development, budgeting, compensation—such key decisions typically are made by company leaders. That’s what bosses are for, right? But maybe the boss isn’t the best person to make the call.

That’s the conclusion Dennis Bakke came to, and he used it to build AES into a Fortune 200 global power company with 27,000 people in 27 countries. He used it again to create Imagine Schools, the largest non-profit charter-school network in the U.S.

As a student at Harvard Business School, Bakke made hundreds of decisions using the case-study method. He realized two things: decision-making is the best way to develop people; and that shouldn’t stop at business school. So Bakke spread decision-making throughout his organizations, fully engaging people at all levels. Today, Bakke has given thousands of people the freedom and responsibility to make decisions that matter.

In The Decision Maker, a leadership fable loosely based on Bakke’s experience, the New York Times bestselling author shows us how giving decisions to the people closest to the action can transform any organization.

The idea is simple.

The results are powerful.

When leaders put real control into the hands of their people, they tap incalculable potential. The Decision Maker, destined to be a business classic, holds the key to unlocking the potential of every person in your organization.Editorial Reviews

Review

“Smart organizations are beginning to recognize that the secret to engagement is to provide employees ample autonomy, the opportunity to make progress, and a sense of purpose. Dennis Bakke brings these principles to life in a modern business fable with ample lessons for building successful organizations from the ground up.”
— Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE and TO SELL IS HUMAN

“Companies are fond of saying their greatest asset is their people, yet few companies operate as if this is the case. In this engaging story, Bakke shows us how to unlock the latent potential that exists in any organization.”
— Tim Jenkins, co-founder, Point B Management Consultants

“The work’s engaging style is sure to inspire and captivate leaders and managers who wish to transform not only their businesses but also their employees’ lives.”
— Publishers Weekly

“There are many things to like about Dennis Bakke’s latest book, The Decision Maker .It is insightful, it is well-written, it is a breeze of fresh air in the management literature. Bakke’s principles are simple—share the power, and let people have fun making decisions—but like it is often the case, these simple principles can have a groundbreaking impact. Read The Decision Maker and change your outdated conceptions of what management ought to be.”
— Frédéric Godart, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, INSEAD

“Imagine an organization where bosses don’t make decisions. Sounds crazy, right? Read The Decision Maker and you’ll be surprised and inspired to try it for yourself. It’s a must-read/must-try for everyone — leaders, managers, and individual contributors in any organization. It just might be the solution that reconciles generational and attitudinal gaps in the workplace today.”
— Atsuko Tamura, la presidente and CEO, evo

From the Inside Flap

Who makes the important decisions in your organization? Strategy, product development, budgeting, compensation—such key decisions typically are made by company leaders. That’s what bosses are for, right? But maybe the boss isn’t the best person to make the call.

That’s the conclusion Dennis Bakke came to, and he used it to build AES into a Fortune 200 global power company with 27,000 people in 27 countries. He used it again to create Imagine Schools, the largest non-profit charter-school network in the U.S.

As a student at Harvard Business School, Bakke made hundreds of decisions using the case-study method. He realized two things: decision-making is the best way to develop people; and that shouldn’t stop at business school. So Bakke spread decision-making throughout his organizations, fully engaging people at all levels. Today, Bakke has given thousands of people the freedom and responsibility to make decisions that matter.

In The Decision Maker, a leadership fable loosely based on Bakke’s experience, the New York Times bestselling author shows us how giving decisions to the people closest to the action can transform any organization.

The idea is simple.

The results are powerful.

When leaders put real control into the hands of their people, they tap incalculable potential. The Decision Maker, destined to be a business classic, holds the key to unlocking the potential of every person in your organization.

A Convincing Argument For The Hands-Off Boss

BY DENNIS BAKKE

MARCH 5, 2013

Who makes the important decisions in your organization? Strategy, product development, budgeting, compensation–that’s what bosses are for, right? Not so fast.

Nothing tells you more about an organization than the way it makes decisions. Do leaders trust team members? Do the people closest to the action get to make the call? Do team members have real responsibility and real control? All of these questions can be answered by one other one: who gets to make the decisions? And nothing affects an organization more than the decisions the people in it make.

Great business minds know this. In fact, decision-making is at the heart of all business education. Nearly a hundred years after the case-study method was invented at Harvard, it’s still the foundation of the world’s best business programs. Why? It’s because the case-study method puts top business students in the role of decision-maker. Over the course of a Harvard MBA, students will make decisions on more than
500 cases. Decision-making is simply the best way in the world to develop people. And real-life decisions are more important–and more fun–than any case study.

But outside of business school, few business leaders tap into the value created by putting important decisions in the hands of their people. Instead, “team players” are taught to do what they’re told. This takes the fun out of work, and it robs people of the chance to contribute in a meaningful way. Or, organizations will use a participatory style of decision-making in which recommendations are given to the boss, who then makes the final decision. This approach also fails to fully realize the value of the people in the organization. What I am talking about is quite different. In a decision-maker company:

  • The leader chooses someone to make a key decision
  • The decision-maker seeks advice (including from the leader) to gather information
  • The final decision is made not by the leader, but by the chosen decision-maker.

The principles are simple. Some might even say common sense. Yet, they are seldom put into practice. But, building your business on these assumptions, using these simple but powerful techniques, can transform a business–and people’s lives.

Basic Assumptions
People are unique. Fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same way. Some people want time off, some people want a raise. It doesn’t make sense to give everyone the same rewards and incentives, because every person is different. When we treat people as individuals, we unlock each person’s unique motivation and potential.

People are creative thinkers. People are capable of coming up with good solutions to problems. They don’t need to be told what to do at every juncture. In fact, the people closest to a situation are often in the best position to come up with a solution. When we set people free to think creatively, they come up with solutions we never could have gotten to by following rules and regulations.

People can learn. We don’t stop learning when we come on the job. People are capable of educating themselves to meet new challenges–and capable of educating others.

People are fallible. We all make mistakes. We have blind spots. And sometimes we just plain do the wrong thing. To work to our best ability, we need the input and insight of others.

People like a challenge. People aren’t machines. We weren’t built to do the same thing over and over again. We’re happiest when we get to meet a new challenge–and master it.
People want to contribute. Each of us has something unique to offer, and we want to contribute it toward something that matters. We work best when we feel like we’re making a positive contribution to the world.

People are responsible for their own actions. It’s fair to hold us accountable for the consequences of the choices we make.

People can make important decisions. Leaders aren’t the only people in the company who are capable of making good decisions. People are happier, decisions are better, and companies are more productive when decision-making is distributed among all the people in a company.

Who Decides

In a decision-maker culture, the most important choice a leader makes is: who makes the decision? These are hallmarks to look for in a good decision-maker.

Proximity. Who’s close to the issue? Are they well acquainted with the context, the day-to-day details, and the big picture?

Perspective. Proximity matters, but so does perspective. Sometimes an outside perspective can be just as valuable as proximity.

Experience. Has this person had experience making similar decisions? What were the consequences of those decisions?

Wisdom. What kinds of decisions has this person made in other areas? Have they been good ones? Do you have confidence in them?

The Advice Process Nobody knows everything, and even an expert can benefit from advice. In a decision-maker culture, the decision-maker makes the final call but must ask for advice. Whom should a decision-maker approach for advice?

Experience. Has this person had experience with this problem? There’s no teacher like experience.

Position. People in different positions see different things. The decision-maker asks a leader, a peer, someone who works in a position below them in the hierarchy–and even, if circumstances warrant, experts from outside the company.

Responsibility. Decisions have consequences–and decision-makers should be held accountable for theirs. At the same time, nobody is right all the time. The most important part of any decision is that the decision-maker fully engages with the advice process, not just that he or she gets it “right.”

Ownership. When people are asked for advice, they start to feel ownership. Ideally, everyone who offers advice works for the success of the project as if it were their own. The advice process isn’t just about getting the right answer. It’s about building a strong team and creating a process of communication that will improve all decisions in a company.

Excerpted from The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time, available today from Pear Press.

Dennis Bakke is the co-founder of Imagine Schools. He previously co-founded and served as the president and CEO of AES, a Fortune 200 global power company.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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