After the Bay of Pigs failure, President Kennedy and his advisors reflected on their mistakes and created a new process for group discussion and decision making to prevent future groupthink and promote diverse perspectives. Here, Professor Roberto introduces the concept of developing a decision-making process. -From the Lecture ‘Deciding How To Decide’
This is a great lecture series that a friend of mine hooked me up with, and I highly recommend it. It was engaging and thought provoking, and there were so many cool ideas to take away from this if you are looking for leadership guidance. As I listened to it, there were many Jundism concepts that kept popping up in various forms and examples.
The particular lecture that I will highlight in this post is the ‘deciding how to decide’ portion. I took notice, because this method of decision making was born out of the highest levels of leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion failure. The Bay of Pigs invasion was an embarrassing mistake that resulted from poor decision making at the top. Or what the professor referred to as ‘group think’ (being surrounded by ‘yes men’ and folks unwilling to question the group or leadership out of fear of being wrong or just assuming everyone else is right)
The Cuban Missile Crisis was an extreme test of wills, and required the best possible strategy that would prevent the US and the Soviet Union wiping each other out with nuclear weapons. President Kennedy devised a system of decision making that would produce the best product or solution possible, that was not a victim of group think. He used a system of subgroups that would develop solutions independently, then those groups would exchange their solutions with the other groups and critique.
A second set of devils advocates or eyes would also review the solutions, and further nitpick the possible solutions until the best idea was standing. So this solution was hammered out of truly honest debate, and any influences that would cause people to not speak up was eliminated. I thought it was an ingenious way of problem solving, and especially during crisis. (be sure to listen to the series to get the specifics on how to set up this system) The situation with North Korea bombing South Korea, and the US and China reaction to it is a prime example of modern day critical decision making with high stakes involved. How President Obama decides, will really be based more on deciding how to decide first, so that the solution he gets is strategically sound and not at all influenced by group think.
Military leaders and CEO’s can learn from this as well. Leaders should strive hard to have honest debate about strategy and it takes listening to your people, and being open to ideas to get there. It also requires breaking down those walls that limit honest debate, and really being aware of group think and it’s dangers. Check out the series to learn more, and let me know what you think. Also check out Professor Roberto’s blog if you want to follow his ideas or contact him. –Matt
Genre: Audio or video CourseLength: Twenty-four, thirty-minute lecturesTeacher: Prof. Michael Roberto, Bryant UniversityPublisher: The Teaching Company
By Tom Alderman
July 23, 2009
Following the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy asked former President Eisenhower to the White House to seek the old soldier’s counsel. The new president wanted to know what he could learn from the whole sorry mess. Instead of the expected military hoo-hah, Ike wanted to know how the decision was made to go ahead with the Cuban invasion? How did the president gather advice from his advisors? Not a surprising question considering the five-star general led a contentious military coalition during World War II, not because of his martial skills, but because of his extraordinary leadership abilities which included understanding the core ingredient in all critical decision making: whether you’re launching a D-Day invasion, a career, a product or service, HOW you decide is more important than WHAT you decide. The process you use determines a successful outcome and if that process is not clear and effective, you’re going down.