Judgement

11 June 2008

I went along to one of the MBA classes tonight. They had some concerns about the marking of an assignment. One thing that struck me was how some people had exercised good judgement in deciding how to tackle the question.

And so, I began to wonder what I meant by good judgement. So, as I often do, I looked at the Oxford English Dictionary. Amongst the many meanings of the word, I found:

  1. a. The faculty of judging; ability to form an opinion; that function of the mind whereby it arrives at a notion of anything; the critical faculty; discernment.

and of course (?), I had a look at Wikipedia, which I found less helpful, viz:

In non-legal contexts, a judgment (American English) or judgement (British English) is a balanced weighing up of evidence preparatory to making a decision. A formal process of evaluation applies. A judgment may be expressed as a statement, e.g. S: ‘A is B’ and is usually the outcome of an evaluation of alternatives.

Whilst Wikipedia’s definition does talk about weighing up evidence, it does seem a bit more formulaic in its approach.

Anyway, along time ago, or at least it feels that way, when I was doing my MBA, I was taught finance by a Prof from America. During one of the early classes, he was asked what one needed to do to be successful in the course.

I remember his answer to this day. He said, “Use good judgement at all times.”

This is probably good advice in many areas of our lives.

I firmly believe that one of the hallmarks of good managers, and leaders, is their ability to exercise good judgement. Consequently, MBA programme we should expect–and participants should require–opportunities to demonstrate (and be rewarded for) their skill in exercising good judgement.

So, I’m left with the thought “What can we do to help you develop better judgement?”

Judgement is an exercise in evaluation, one needs to practice it. So, I don’t believe that there is any way in which good judgement can be taught without an experiential component (there must an experience of using judgement in order to better refine it).

I’m not sure that spelling things out in ever increasing detail contributes to developing judgement. Indeed, Hare in his commentary on the teaching of judgement argues for open-endedness and a degree of ambiguity (he says vagueness). Hare goes on to say that “the teacher is responsible for providing the minimum requirement … and for bringing the person to a point where they can exercise judgement”. Most importantly, and echoing my earlier point, Hare says “‘Knowledge’ does not require that we work things out for ourselves but judgement does.”

At this point in time, as the bulk of their MBA programme lies ahead of them, again wonder what we can do differently to help each person develop better judgement.