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Book Review – “Deciding: A Guide to Even Better Decision-Making”

I have read many books about decision-making over the years, mostly from a perspective of psychology/behavioural economics.  Some have focused on the particular challenges of decision-making in a crisis; whilst others are more general in their outlook, but still generally contain useful nuggets for crisis management.  I have to say that this book by Roger Estall and Grant Purdy is quite unlike any other!

The main body of the book is an exposition of the authors’ grandly-titled “Universal Method for Decision-Making“.  Whilst there are many useful  common-sense observations contained therein, based on the authors’ extensive consulting experience; it is arguable if it really justifies being called a “method”.  For example, there is a whole chapter on “Conversing” effectively.  The chapter dealing with assumptions and uncertainty is probably the most interesting; and is clearly relevant to the practise of crisis management.  However, much of the book is formatted as a series of appendices, of which two particularly struck me…

Appendix B, “Anticipating the Unexpected“, consists largely of a blistering attack on “the faulty rationale of so-called Business Continuity Management“.  Which, according to the authors, “was invented as a catchy label for a narrow protocol intended only to provide a blueprint for responding to a disruption should it occur.”  I always thought (and ISO 22313 seems to agree) that reducing the likelihood of disruption through an effective risk assessment was a critical part of the business continuity management process; but I now stand corrected.

This then broadens out into an attack on “The ‘Risk Management’ Millstone” in Appendix C.  Many of their criticisms of the way that risk management is frequently implemented, particularly by large consultancies, is entirely valid; but that does not mean that it cannot be done well.  In particular, they cite the examples of the failure of Enron and the crashes of Boeing 737MAX aircraft as proof that risk management does not work (not just that it was implemented very badly in these organisations).  Having criticised risk management for the use of confusing terminology, the authors propose instead to reduce uncertainty by embedding “secondary elements” into each decision.  They conclude that “The universal method of decision-making enablers Deciders to achieve sufficient certainty: there is simply no need for any version of ‘risk management’.

As you may have gathered by now, I wouldn’t really recommend this book.