CRUCIAL DECISIONS: Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management by Irving L. Janis

CRUCIAL DECISIONS: Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management

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While attention must be paid the eminent social scientist who coined (or at least popularized) the term ""groupthink,"" lay readers are apt to find his guide to making effective decisions frustratingly pedantic. A former Yale faculty member who's now an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, Janis has comparatively simple advice for those who play leadership roles in hierarchic organizations, including government (from which he draws most of his case studies). In brief, the author enjoins policymakers to look carefully before they leap. Unfortunately, however, he wraps common-sense counsel in message-muddling bafflegab that will mean more to academic theorists than those with hard rows to hoe in corporate, domestic, and/or foreign affairs. In hypothesizing on the sorts of individuals likely to reach sound conclusions, for example, Janis submits that neurotic executives (i.e., those with ""low stress tolerance--manifested by relatively high level(s) of anxiety with feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. . ."") are bad bets. In like vein, he maunders on about the perils of failing to engage in ""vigilant problem solving,"" which comes down to obtaining as much information as possible and analyzing it systematically before taking action. (As it happens, the computer trade operates on an appositely concise principle: GIGO--garbage in, garbage out.) The author also warns against creeping incrementalism and other forms of nonrational or snap judgments. Though not without rewards for the determined, Janis' jargon-marred text and its illustrative matrices will prove heavy going for all but scholars of the iffy art of making conscientious decisions.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1989
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan