In Managing in the Gray, Joseph Badaracco offers managers a five-question framework for facing murky situations and solving tough problems at work.

Approaching a problem as a manager means working with others and doing all you can to really understand the problem. “You don’t decide these things in splendid isolation or with brilliant insights. You get data and use the tools you have to analyze it with other people.” In gray areas, however, discussion and analysis doesn’t produce a final decision. Badaracco says that in these instances, “somebody finally has to say this is what we are going to do and this is why, and that takes an act of judgment.”

Badaracco provides five questions that work as guidelines for making gray-area decisions:

  1. What are the net, net consequences?
  2. What are my core obligations?
  3. What will work in the world as it is?
  4. Who are we?
  5. What can I live with?

“Versions of these questions run through so much of the serious thinking about hard decisions that you find in philosophy, theology, and literature,” he says.

from HBS Working Knowledge


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