AMICULUM Consulting Blog
A bad outcome means that somebody made a poor decision, right?

In today’s world of fast action and faster judgement, this is the conclusion commonly arrived at - things didn’t work out well, somebody must be at fault, and tough luck if it is you!

Maybe that is the case, maybe somebody did make a mistake... but then again things are rarely that black and white (especially in the highly complex and multifunctional world of pharma today), and if you pause for thought you may see things in a slightly different light.


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To borrow inspiration from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." So let us explore this thought a little - what does this mean in terms of our decision making - in particular, what if we consider things from the point of view of the decision maker?

Imagine looking back at a hypothetical situation where the outcome of a decision was bad - what factors would you consider in determining whether or not the decision was a poor one?

Before I could pass judgement on the actual decision, I would like to know more about the decision making process that led to it, for instance:

  • Were the objectives of the decision clear to all parties from the start? (What are you trying to achieve?)
  • Was the context fully understood and the decision appropriately framed? (What is on the table and what is not? Have the scope/boundaries of the discussion been set?)
  • Were a realistic yet appropriately expansive set of options identified? (Not too broad or too narrow, avoiding potential bias or prejudgement.)
  • Was the right amount of information available? (Not too much or too little. Sufficientfor all of the evaluation criteria, and for all options?)
  • Was the appropriate level of expertise employed? (Were the right people involved at the right time? Did they have the appropriate level of knowledge?)
  • Were diligent analytics and modelling applied to evaluate the potential risks and returns of the options? (Not too superficial or too complex – i.e. appropriate for the decision. Again, avoiding potential bias or prejudgement.)

Now if the answer to all these questions is yes, and the decision making process employed was sound, would your judgement be that the actual decision was a poor one?

There may be other factors at play, but to my mind the conclusion we can draw is that if the decision maker has done a good job with their process, and used a structured and rigorous approach to making the decision (such as that outlined above and further embraced by our SMART Decision model), we cannot point the finger of blame too strongly if the outcome is not as desired.

There is uncertainty in absolutely everything we do. The purpose of any decision is simply to take the action that best meets your goals given the information available at that time.

When viewed in this light, the decision making process becomes a tool to enable and empower you to move forward, hopefully (but not definitely) towards success. And this is true of whatever decision you are trying to make: Should we progress product X into Phase II? Should we licence in product Y? What positioning should we pursue with product Z? What should our loss of exclusivity defence strategy be? Etc...

So remember, a good decision does not guarantee a good outcome; conversely, a bad outcome is not always the result of a poor decision. However, for this to be true it is critical that you do a good job with your decision making process in the first place.

For more information about this blog topic or to discuss any of these ideas further please contact the team at team at