doctorWe sometimes are asked if there are any professions or roles in which our approach isn’t effective. There are actually three that happen to be significantly less successful than others: doctors making medical decisions, lawyers and accountants.   Understanding what makes these professions a challenge provides insight into successful leadership. Doctors, lawyers and accountants use a different decision-making process, which was a key finding in my doctoral dissertation, “The effects of management training on small group decision making.”   First of all let me just say that doctors making medical decisions use different decision making processes than doctors making business decisions about developing and managing a practice. From what I have observed, doctors making medical decisions seem to use a template-matching process. Doctors appear to make decisions by memorizing an image of groups of characteristics that cumulatively define a particular condition. Once enough of the characteristics are present and clear, a diagnosis can be reliable. When the characteristics are ambiguous or incomplete, then the doctors gravitate to the closest known pattern. In template matching, doctors follow a very structured procedure that is very different from the way a business leader makes a decision, which is much less structured and more open-ended.   Lawyers don’t really make decisions as a business person would think of decision making but instead conduct analyses in support of decision. They typically conduct two types of analyses. The first is to take an adversarial position in favor of their client where their goal is to win a potential lawsuit. The second is a contract position in which their goal is to minimize exposure through micro-analyzing contract details. Both of these perspectives are very procedural. They don’t call for judgments per say; they just nit-pick for weaknesses. This is certainly not about constructive solutions or collaboration, which are so vital to most business environments.   Accountants are by far the most procedural of the three professions. Their role is to examine recorded information to ensure that everything conforms to well-defined rules. Think about Enron and Arthur Andersen; when they bent the rules they found themselves in serious trouble. When I have asked accountants to present the implications of data for business decision-making they become very uncomfortable. Their job is highly procedural analysis, and nothing more.     What business people do differently is first and foremost to make decisions where there is considerable uncertainty and tremendous process variability. While there are good and not so good ways for analyzing information and making decisions, the processes are much looser than the hard and fast rules of medical, legal and accounting work.  As such, it is often the intangibles of leadership such as a passionate commitment to a compelling purpose and clear path to achieving mastery, each of which is unique to a particular business situation that yield the best business decisions.   Where our work at Cerebyte excels is when judgments need to be made with incomplete information and human foibles are involved. This is the real world for the vast majority of people.]]>

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