Cover image for Why decisions fail : avoiding the blunders and traps that lead to debacles
Why decisions fail : avoiding the blunders and traps that lead to debacles
Nutt, Paul C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco, CA : Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002.
Physical Description:
xv, 332 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


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HD30.23 .N883 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Based on the his analysis of 400 strategic decisions made by top managers in areas such as products and services, pricing and markets, personnel policy, technology acquisition, and strategic reorganization, Nutt estimates that two-thirds of all decisions are based on failure-prone or questionable tactics. He uses the fifteen monumental decision-making disasters to illustrate the potential consequences of these common tactical errors and traps and then details successful alternative decision-making approaches.
Why Decisions Fail translates decades of award-winning research into practical terms that managers can use to improve their own decision-making practices.

Author Notes

Paul C. Nutt is a professor of Management Sciences and Public Policy and Management in the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Nutt (management, Ohio State Univ.) has spent 20 years collecting and studying more than 400 decisions made by upper-level management in corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations. Here, he selects 15 decisions that led to debacles and gives the background for each decision, what went wrong, and how the problem could have been approached differently. Through these case studies and other examples, he reveals a number of traps he has discerned in the decision-making process, including limiting the search for alternatives to a manager's preconceived ideas, failing to learn from mistakes by not accepting their existence, and misreading potential opposition. The debacles cited by Nutt, all well known, include locating EuroDisney outside Paris, mislabeling BeechNut apple juice, and Ford's showing an unwillingness to fix faulty Pinto gas tanks. Nutt's thorough dissection of the debacles and explanation of the decision-making process makes this book essential for libraries supporting management programs, while his clear writing style makes it accessible to patrons at larger public libraries. Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Organizational decisions fail half of the time. But what is even more startling is that the actual failure rate may be greater because most decision failures are not publicly reported. The cost of these failed decisions amounts to billions of dollars. This book, by respected academician Nutt (Fisher College of Business, Ohio State Univ.), parses many well-known decisions to identify common patterns. His study of 400 decisions over a 20-year period reveals three common blunders that lead to seven decision-making traps. The three blunders--rushing to judgment, misusing resources, and applying failure-prone tactics--are vividly illustrated using vignettes such as Nestle's marketing of infant formula and Ford's unwillingness to recall the defective Pinto. These decisions and others are further analyzed in a detailed discussion of the traps set up by the blunders that lead to disastrous outcomes. Nutt's perceptive analyses of pitfalls in the decision-making process presented in the first ten chapters lead to important prescriptions to improve decision-making in the final chapter. The merits of this well-researched book are many. It is unique in using well-known, actual decisions to identify common patterns and in putting ethical and social considerations at the forefront of decision making. Professionals and upper-division undergraduates and up. R. Subramanian Grand Valley State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
The Decision Debaclesp. xv
Chapter 1 Blunders that Launch a Decision Debaclep. 1
Chapter 2 Traps that Catch Decision Makersp. 23
Chapter 3 Decision-Making Processes Prone to Success and Failurep. 41
Chapter 4 Traps in Failing to Lead the Effort with Agreed-Upon Claimsp. 61
Chapter 5 The Traps in Unmanaged Social and Political Forcesp. 87
Chapter 6 Traps in Misleading Directionsp. 111
Chapter 7 Traps in Limited Search and No Innovationp. 131
Chapter 8 The Traps in Misusing Evaluationp. 165
Chapter 9 Ethical Trapsp. 197
Chapter 10 Learning Trapsp. 227
Chapter 11 The Lessons: Avoiding the Blunders and Trapsp. 253
Appendix 1 The Decision-Making Research Projectp. 265
Appendix 2 Estimating Riskp. 276
Appendix 3 Citations for the Debaclesp. 291
References and Selected Readingsp. 305
Indexp. 319
About the Authorp. 331