Decision Making in Uncertain Times

With (Australian) Robodebt and the (UK) Post Office in the news, now is a great time to reconsider how we govern our organisations and institutions. How is it that highly regarded executives and boards went so far astray?

A lot has been written about how we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. Most of prescriptions, though, are some form of more data and better algorithms. Faster! More Intense!1 There has been some commentary about how we need to ask better questions if we’re to put the data and algorithms to work. This is halfway there, as it’s the questions are not asked which are often the most important. This includes both unknown questions (where our default framing of our challenges prevent us from seeing a question) and known questions (but where we don’t want to know the answer).

In Decision Making in Uncertain Times2 Tony Fish addresses the elephant in the room by picking apart how groups of decision makers—primarily boards—can ask the unknown or unaskable questions. Rather than the usual “five steps”, approach, Tony peels apart the challenge of asking better questions and lets you make up your own mind. He starts by picking apart the assumption that data is objective, works through how the dynamics of the board and the lived experience of board members frames what questions are asked (and how they are asked), before exploring how boards can balance the individual / group and human / organisation tensions that can pull them in the wrong direction.

This is a timely book which, with luck, will move the conversation from the process and technology of board-level decision making to how boards frame and choose questions given all risks and opportunities that come from the complexity and uncertainty of the modern world.


  1. It’s claimed that George Lucas would often tell the cast of the orginal Star Wars to move “Faster!” and “More intense!” ↩︎
  2. Fish, Tony. Decision Makingin Uncertain Times. Peak Paradox, 2024. ↩︎