Tackling Tough Decisions
Some of the toughest decisions that volunteer boards must make are those that fall into gray areas — situations in which the data is unclear, opinions are divided and the right course of action is far from obvious.

Harvard ethics professor and author of “Managing in the Gray,” Joseph Badaracco brings difficult decision-making into focus with a series of practical questions that can ultimately improve the odds of making the right calls. First, he says gray-area problems are rarely resolved by one person at the top. The best decisions often come when decision-makers step out of their comfort zones, assemble a trusted team and establish a framework for problem-solving that begins with exploring the full, real-world human consequences of each option. Then, with a guiding mindset that Badaracco calls “moral imagination,” boards are freer to recognize existing biases and blind spots, and consider the ultimate impact of a given decision on a variety of key stakeholders.

Finally, Badaracco says, “When looking at a problem in a clear-eyed, pragmatic way — seeing the world as it really is rather than how you may want it to be — it then becomes possible to craft a plan that has the potential to move the organization through a gray area responsibly and successfully.”
Harvard Business Review (09/01/06) Badaracco, Joseph L.
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