A decision engineer has mastered the following:
- decision theory,
- the decision analysis process,
- system dynamics (modeling),
- applied probability, and
These are the skills needed to make decisions involving complexity, dynamics, and uncertainty. For example, these skills are needed to design a revenue management system for an airline or a rental car company. This is why Uber and Lyft employ many decision engineers.
On the other hand a decision coach is comfortable working with teams of people. Teams work on problems that are complicated both technically and politically/socially/emotionally. The teams are uusually made up of both technical and non-technical people. A typical strategic decision will involve people from engineering, finance, marketing, manufacturing, supply chain, sales, and customer support. A decision coach is trained to move teams toward collaboration and mutual learning.
A successful team effort also requires good project management skills. Many projects fail because they take too long and/or cost too much. Someone has to be responsable for scoping a project and then keeping the project on time and on budget. This is a natural role for an experienced decision coach.
There are other things that decision coaches must master. Teams need someone who knows how to package insights and recommendations in a way that engages executives. This is something that a decision coach knows how to do.
Frequently projects deliver outstanding technical results but the team’s presentations do not connect with upper management. Projects need someone who understands an organization’s decision-making processes (i.e. How things are done around here.)
Finally, a decision coach is in a natural position to support organizational learning. At one point in my consulting career I was asked to lead a project to develop a product and marketing strategy for Japan. My client told me that this had been done as many as six times. I asked what these earlier projects had learned. No one knew. I asked if there was any written record of what has been learned. No one in the current organization had any knowledge of reports or research results. This is typical in large fast-moving organizations. It is unfortunate. It doesn’t take much to make a decision record: Who is on the team? Who was involved? What did they do? Were they successful? Why? Why not? Where are the presentations? Recommendation?
There are many decision coaches out there. Many organizations have made a commitment to improving the quality of decisions they make by developing a cadre of trained decision engineers and coaches; companies like Intel, Google, Chevron, China Mobile, and General Motors.
It is the mission of Baker Street Publishing to promote decision engineering and decision coaching. Our goal at Baker Street is to provide training materials that decision coaches can use to mentor executives, decision engineers, and team members. Our practice is based on the teachings of Professor Ron Howard and his colleagues in and around Stanford University. We also subscribe to the teachings of Professor Chris Argyris and his colleagues in and around Harvard University.