I listen to chatter over the airwaves. Talkshow host Armstrong William leads a merry discussion on South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford. Armstrong cannot contain himself: “How does Governor Sanford get rid of his Love Jones?” It was a question that was not easily answered. Listeners from South Carolina appeared irritated with this line of questioning.
Many felt the governor had abandoned his wife, children, and the people of South Carolina. On June 24th, Governor Sanford arranged a press conference where he confessed a year-long affair with an Argentine woman. He was missing for more than six days from his office.
At his press conference, political pundits argued Governor Sanford was attempting to save his job, not his family life. He was married and had four sons. Instead of a low-profile strategy, Governor Sanford actively engaged the media, describing his mistress as his “soul mate.” Clearly, he had lost his mind! His wife Jenny stated, “I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal.”
Unfortunately, Sanford’s decision ruined his political career, strategic alliances, and the trust of the people of South Carolina. Yet, his personal loss was perhaps greater. He lost his marriage and the trust of his children. Therefore, some decision making carries long-term consequences for individuals and organizations.
Have you ever wondered why some people continue to make bad decisions? You see million-dollar celebrities doing it. You can see this action in government officials and business leaders. There are no discriminators. From the very rich to the poorest of the poor, we see people caught in a vicious cycle of bad decision making. Sadly, we can see it much closer than that. We witness relatives making bad decisions. Despite wise counsel, some people continue to make poor decisions.
The Decision Process
Decision making can make or break an organization. Joan Liebler and Charles McConnell, authors of Management Principles for Health Professionals, maintain that decision making is an essential element of management activities at all organizational levels. Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, further argue that managers must respond to opportunities and threats. In fact, decision making is a process where individuals analyze and make determinations regarding a problem that is keeping with the organization’s goals and objectives.
Unfortunately, some people feel the decision making process is a solo operation. Some managers can be caught in this trap and disregard the expertise of their workers. Through series after series of bad decisions, the manager may continue on a merry ride of worsening consequences. Two things generally can stop this dead-end trap. The organization stops him or the organization tanks.
In going through a series of bad decisions, a wise person should gain insight. Unfortunately, some individuals who are in charge will learn nothing, thereby earning the label of a foolish manager. Every person, regardless of their background or social standing, can benefit from good decision-making techniques.
The Path Forward
Making the right decision is a difficult process. Like Governor Sanford, many managers don’t take enough time to evaluate short-term decisions for long-term consequences. No one will usually applaud your many good decisions; however, you will probably catch heat over the bad ones.
Les Brown, author of How to Become the Person You Always Wanted to Be-No Matter What the Obstacle, explains, “Your values are not set by government or church leaders. Your values give you consistency in the way you approach life…By holding to your beliefs, you can always stay on track toward your dreams.” Therefore, making good decisions goes to the heart of being an effective manager.
How do managers overcome the barriers of making bad decisions during uncertainty? Is it possible for a manager to involve their workers in critical decisions without giving up any authority?
© 2010 by Daryl D. Green
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One of the major problems facing managers in the decision making process is their own bias. This is a problem that not only affects the novice manager, but the veteran manager as well. Throughout their years of education and experience, their bias and intuition has been cemented into their thinking. By becoming reliant on these functions, managers are putting themselves at great risk for failure. This is because the manager relies less upon his analytical and critical thinking abilities of the current situation and too reliant on what they expect from past experiences. One of the best ways in which a manager can remedy their reliance on bias is to involve others in the decision making process. By doing this, the manager is able to reduce their own overconfidence of the situation. This allows the manager to decrease their reliance on intuition by looking at the problem through an outsider’s prospective.
Chugh, Dolly, Katherine L. Milkman, and Max H. Bazerman. “How Can Decision Making Be Improved?” Harvard Business School 08-102 (2008): 1-11.
I agree with Steven that personal biases influence decisions and adding people to the decision making process can aide in a less biased and perhaps more appropriate decision for an organization. There are many types of biases that can interfere with a person’s ability to make a decision. Steven referred to a person’s tendency to rely on one’s past experiences and education for direction. According to George Spafford, this is defined as confirmation bias and it, “relates to people interpreting new data in a means that confirms previously held beliefs. If a network engineer believes that network congestion is an issue then he will collect and review incident data in such a way that it confirms his beliefs and discount the data that does not.”
A manager that encourages workers to participate in the decision making process is not sacrificing their authority, but instead is using their human resources wisely. Decisions made on behalf of the manager who chose to look beyond his/her own bias by inviting the ideas of their workers will ultimately still be attributed to the manager. Ideally, decisions formed by multiple workers of a shared organization will better support the organization’s objectives than the decision made by one person.
Spafford, George. “Incident Decision Making and Cognitive Bias,” ITSM Watch: Insight on IT Service Management, 2007. http://www.itsmwatch.com/itil/article.php/3690326/Incident-Decision-Making-and-Cognitive-Bias.htm
I agree with you. Bias can be a huge factor in decisions. By involving others in decisions, your own biases are limited. You have to look at other peoples perspectives and take them into consideration. You may hear something that you would have never thought of if you were making the decision on your own. Involving others in your decision making process also helps you to actually make your decision. “Most real decisions, unlike those of economics texts, have a status quo alternative—that is, doing nothing or maintaining one’s current or previous decision”. Overall, it is important to have others involved in decision making. Others bring new ideas and perspectives into the decisions.
Samuelson , W. & Richard ZeckhauserJ. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1(1), 7-59.
There are two extremes by which people can make choices. The first is an internal belief system. This system of thought is what drives a person and what gives him character and wisdom in making choices. The other is complete selflessness. This system of thought is what makes people considerate and cognizant of the wants and needs of others. By integrating the two, we come up with a structure that allows for the input of the workers under the authority of a manager.
Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management provide a great example of how planning and decision making in a company is not an individual effort. There is a type of multi-level integration of all the ideas and thoughts that are pulled together into a cohesive unifying goal. Once a unified goal is established, a unified strategy can be agreed upon.
As Dr. Jay Gary points out “foresight is not about better predictions, but better decisions.” Otherwise, there would be no need to involve their employees in decisions making. By incorporating their workers into the decision making process the manager is effectively making them feel valued and full of worth.
Jones, Garth R, Jennifer M George. Contemporary Management 6th Ed. Boston: McGraw, 2009.
The mark of an effective and efficient manager is one who is not afraid to make decisions. A manager cannot be so afraid to make mistakes that nothing gets done. No one wants to make a bad call, or be blamed for a poor decision, but the effective manager will simply learn from those mistakes and have a larger pool of knowledge on which to base further decisions. While the final decision may ultimately come from the manager, they are able and should be willing to consult and take into consideration the position of experts, employees, co-workers etc. An effective manager is not the one that makes all the correct decisions all the time. They are the person that is best able to put together all the available opinions, data, thoughts, goals, and options to make the best, most informed decision that they see fit (Rey, Goldstein, & Perruchet, 2009). Brian Tracy, of the Brian Tracy College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Andrew Jackson University once said, “Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.” Obviously this does not apply to every situation, but even in such scenarios there is a final decision maker – in the medical field, there is a hospital administrator that can co-ordinate with consultants and external specialists for medical emergencies and specialized operations (Leape, 1994). Not a single person makes the correct decision every time. However, the ability to make the best from bad situations, learn from mistakes, and recognize those that make success possible make a manager a leader.
Leape, L. L. (1994). Error in Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association , 272 (23), 1851-1857.
Rey, A., Goldstein, R. M., & Perruchet, P. (2009). Does unconscious thought improve complex decision making? Psychological Research , 73, 372-9.
Steven, Gene, and Kathryn…excellent.
Can we go deeper?
There is no doubt that decision making capabilities distinguish an effective leader from someone who has no business being in charge. However, that being said, leaders must make decisions because it has long been known that a bad decision is better than no decision at all.
No matter how many good and useful decisions a manager makes throughout their career, often times they are defined by a single bad decision. This reinforces the fact that all managers need to be critical thinkers and careful decision makers. Sometimes the negative effects of a decision cannot be avoided at any cost but a good leader will use all resources necessary to minimize the damage done. Some leaders like Gov. Mark Sanford seem to be just asking for trouble considering how obvious his mistakes were. According to Michael Useem in his article “Developing Leaders for decision Making under Stress” (Academy of Management and Learning&Education, 2005, Vol 4, pp461-485), “Made well, good decisions become the foundation of personal advancement; made poorly, they can end an otherwise promising career.”
There is always a risk in making a decision but the manager has the obligation of making the best decision possible, I mean that’s why he is the manager right? The best decision can be made by gathering all the facts, forecasting for the future, getting input from all stakeholders, considering all pros and cons, and exploring all options. Some managers rely on past experiences to help overcome making past mistakes although some decisions have to be made in which the outcome is unpredictable. Creative solutions allows managers to make the best decision because it allows them to explore on their ideas rather than settling for an adequate solution.
It is very possible for a manager to involve his workers without giving up authority. Just because you are getting input from others, that does not give up your managerial powers. In fact, it enhances your authority when you ask those underneath you for input which creates a trust and respect from your coworkers. When workers have a sense of ownership in your decision, they will be more supportive in the implementation of the decision which will give you more authority as a manager.
DeBono, Edward. “Creative solutions: how creativity can help with decision making and analysis.” Thinking Managers. N.p., 12/19/2008. Web. 16 Jun 2010. .
The possibility of making a bad decision is undoubtedly in the back of any manager’s mind, but the consequences of such should not drive the manager’s decision-making process. Unfortunately, this tendency to be concerned with negative consequences can drive a manager to act not in the interest of the business, but in his own interest in order to preserve his role. In his article, Edwin Miller noted that, “Recognition that the manager is likely to place his own interests before those of the company should alert the enterprise to begin developing measures whereby this problem can be controlled or averted.” I think one way to overcome this is through some type of positive reinforcement from the business to the manager. Rather than reprimand for bad decisions, a business should inform and help a manager learn from mistakes because knowledge is undoubtedly more powerful than fear. Being able to learn from prior experiences, both successful and not, will help a manger grow and be more prepared for the future. It is absolutely possible and arguably imperative for mangers to console with the workers in some cases because their distinct realms of expertise can lend well to the bigger picture in uncertainty.
Miller, E. The Selection Decision for an International Assignment: A Study of the Decision Maker’s Behavior. Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Autumn, 1972), pp. 49-65.
All managers, I believe, have to make tough decisions on a regular basis. Since this is probably true, the organizational authorities who appoint managers must thoroughly study the capabilities of those individuals to make those difficult decisions. Once a manager is in charge, he directly responsible for his decisions and those of the personnel under him. His ability to make right decisions and avoid bad ones, I believe, deeply relies on his personal and professional code of conduct. An individual who has labored well previously under stress and has led by example is more likely to continue to do so. With that been said, even the best managers can still make bad decisions. The degree of the offense largely dictates the subsequent course of action. Still, an effective leader must have a way of monitoring his actions and needs to welcome constructive candid criticism from his superiors and subordinates . Moreover, an effective manager learns from his good and bad decisions and diligently works on improvement to achieve personal and professional growth.
Yes, I certainly believe that it is almost a requirement for a manager to involve their workers in critical decision making. In the end, a manager alone can accomplish nothing. It his people or workers who help him meet his quotas, objectives or goals. As such, his subordinates are his most precious commodity as as such he must value them and involve them as mush as possible in the decisions about the products or services that they themselves will accomplish. I see a manager as a wise old man whose value is not on how much he knows, but how much he shares.
-Uncle John’s All-Purpose Extra Strength Bathroom Reader
A good manager leads with power and conviction through a proper example and a good character, not necessarily by making every decision and/or making every decision correctly. Stephen Covey says, “Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” Governor Sanford’s bad decisions began far before he even contemplated having an affair. What kind of daily habits did he possess early on that lead him on the path to deceit and adultery? Who wants to follow a leader they know is living a life of deceit? Thus, the people withdrew their support and chose not to follow him. An article by David Pendleton and Jennifer King in the British Medical Journal on Values and Leadership state, “When we search our experiences to find examples of medical care at its best, we will discover tales of values in action. We will see care, expertise, insight, communication, and extraordinary effort. Espousing and serving values such as these dignifies both the doctor and the patient.” Thus, it’s not necessarily that the manager/physician makes the correct decision at every turn, but that they lead and live in accordance to good character and values, which will, by default, create a leader that makes good decisions in most situations.
“Stephen Covey.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2010. 18 June. 2010. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/stephen_covey.html
Pendleton, David and Jennifer King. “Values and Leadership” British Medical Journal. December 2002;325:1352-1355.
I agree with you that a good leader does not have to make each and every decision; at times it is actually the contrary. Many times a sign of wisdom is being able to recognize when someone knows more about something than you, or they possess certain talents and gifts that enables them to make a better decision. As Herbert Alexander Simon argues in his book Administrative behavior, “Administrative activity is group activity…administrative process are decision processes… which require dividing certain elements of the decision making process to members of the organization.” For instance, if a company is engaged in a fierce legal battle, the company CEO should rely on the firm’s general counsel for a majority of the decision making. In this case they are not giving up authority but rather delegating their authority and utilizing expert information to improve their own individual decision making and improving decision making of the organization as the whole.
Simon, Herbert, A. Administrative Behavior 4th ed. The Free Press. New York, NY. 1997
In an article entitled “Can You Handle Uncertainty?”, Bradley J. Moore proclaims, “None of us can predict the future or be precisely confident that every decision we make is the right one.” Uncertainty is experienced by every CEO, manager, and employee of every company every day. With this said, managers are not always going to know the repercussions of the decisions that they make. The proper education and experience that managers have should allow them to make better decisions as well as avoid the bad decisions in the first place. In addition, Moore also believes that managers need to get “bloodied up a bit” before moving into more prominent leadership roles. Many times, complicated and somewhat stressful situations can promote learning and maturity within the workplace.
Many successful organizations have a relatively equal distribution of power, or at least a “perceived” equal distribution of power, throughout its employees. Power, in this situation, generally translates into the ability to make important decisions. An experienced manager should allow for this distribution to enable the employees to feel empowered, and therefore be motivated to participate in important decision making. Ultimately, the manager will have the final say or authority in the implementation of the decision or plan.
Moore, Bradley J. “Can You Handle Uncertainty?” Conference Board Review. Summer 2009. Vol. 46, Issue 4. Pg 59-59.
Managers can, and should, involve other employees in the decision-making process without relinquishing complete authority. Ultimately the decision is left up to them (retaining the authority part), but input from others may present different options one person might not have otherwise considered, thus allowing a totally informed decision process. A study done by Soonhee Kim found that it not only may help the manager but has also been shown to help employees by boosting motivation and increasing job satisfaction. Kim stated, “Organizational leaders’ commitment to changing organizational culture from the traditional patterns of hierarchical structure to participative management and empowerment should be emphasized in the public sector.”
In addition, as several of my classmates have written, decision-making carries risks. However, risk also exists in NOT making decisions, especially for those in positions of authority where the ability to do so is expected (i.e. managers). One poor decision probably would not cause a manager to lose their job, but lacking the confidence and ability to make decisions might. Therefore, shying away from one of the primary responsibilities of being a manager is more risky than making a decision that turns out to be a poor one (unless it was an illegal one!).
Kim, S. (2002). Participative management and job satisfaction: Lessons for management leadership.
Public Administration Review, 62, 231–241.
The decision making process is fraught with uncertainty. In fact, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty itself. Modern managers encounter a myriad of problems which require swift and decisive action. In order to effectively address these, managers should follow a properly laid out road map that includes the following steps: problem definition, development and evaluation of alternatives, rendering the decision, implementing and monitoring it. As Louis Pasteur once said, chance favors the prepared mind 1. But even with this rigorous process, managers still make bad decisions and it is important to admit and learn from them. Mark Sanford never did express any remorse or even mention his wife during his press conference.
The decision making itself is a response to opportunities and threats, thus making it imperative that managers involve their workers because they are the ones that encounter these factors every day. Without involving the workers, managers only worsen the case of bounded rationality as explained Simon. He contends in his model of man book that managers are faced with so vast an amount of information that they have a bounded rationality 2. Would involving workers not alleviate these bounds? I opine that it will indeed.
1-Quotes from Louis Pasteur. Book Browse website. http://www.bookbrowse.com/quotes/detail/index.cfm?quote_number=108
2-Simon, Herbert A: Models of Man (Continuity in administrative science. Ancestral Books in Management of Organizations.) Facsimiles-Garl. January 1987.
The authoritarian leadership style is prevalent because it lends itself to better accountability of tasks, the conditions in which they are to be accomplished, and the standards that are to be upheld. Most managers are accustomed to this style because it is how they were mentored and are now emulating. Delegated authority allows employees to have a vested interest in the goals and receive personal satisfaction from the accolades of success (Lewin). However, in an interpersonal context, a lack of responsibility is associated with a lack of fault, which is detrimental to the manager whom can easily confuse the two. A manager is always responsible for his employee’s actions even through no fault of his own merely by association. In most cases a blended democratic or participative leadership style will prevail with a shift between autocratic and delegated styles based on time constraints. The leader’s moral compass will direct his decisions (good or bad) and this emphasizes the need for better interviewing and hiring policies. As stated in the Book “Blink”, “You can learn as much – or more – from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face”.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2005.
Lewin, K., LIippit, R. and White, R.K. (1939). Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates. Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 271-301
Whether companies are experiencing troubled times or flourishing in the market, managers should be continuously accumulating resources about the market, economy, their own company and their competition’s companies. By researching and gathering information about other companies, the business environment and their own company, the manager is covering all aspects of both internal and external uncertainty that may arise. Accumulating resources and making uncertainty reduction strategies can be viewed “as acquiring knowledge (a major resource) about the operation of the organization.” By having these strategies and knowledge, managers will have the resources and mindset to make well informed decisions in the face of uncertainty. As we have learned in marketing, each company should have a contingency plan for the “what ifs,” the uncertainties when it comes to marketing. This is also a great idea for any aspect of a business. By having a plan already implemented for the “what ifs”, when a company is faced with an uncertainty, managers can make good decisions with ease because it has already been planned out. These things will allow managers to have a “proactive rather than a reactive perspective” in the face of uncertainty.
I believe that it is possible for a manger to involve their employees in critical decision making while still retaining authority. If a company has implemented a good system of organization with all employees reporting to a manger in their specific department and those managers reporting to higher authority and so on, employees will be able to contribute their thoughts in pyramid form of information flow. This will allow the top managers to still make all the final decisions while taking into account the employees ideas.
Jauch, Lawrence R.and Kenneth L. Kraft. “Strategic Management of Uncertainty.” JSTOR Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1986): pp. 777-790
Liebler, Joan Gratto and Charles R. McConnell. Management Principles for Health Professionals. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers LLC, 2008.
Managers should be continuously accumulating resources about the market, economy, their own company and their competition’s companies. By researching and gathering information this information, the manager is covering all aspects of both internal and external uncertainty that may arise. These can be viewed “as acquiring knowledge about the operation of the organization.” By having these strategies and knowledge, managers will have the resources and mindset to make well informed decisions in the face of uncertainty. As we have learned in marketing, each company should have a contingency plan for the “what ifs,” the uncertainties when it comes to marketing. This is also a great idea for any aspect of a business. These things will allow managers to have a “proactive rather than a reactive perspective” in the face of uncertainty.
If a company has implemented a good system of organization with all employees reporting to a manger in their department and those managers reporting to higher authority, employees will be able to contribute their thoughts in pyramid form of information flow. This will allow the top managers to still make all the final decisions while taking into account the employees ideas.
Jauch, Lawrence R.and Kenneth L. Kraft. “Strategic Management of Uncertainty.” JSTOR Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1986): pp. 777-790
Liebler, Joan Gratto and Charles R. McConnell. Management Principles for Health Professionals. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers LLC, 2008.
Uncertainty is what is says it is, uncertain. Good and bad decisions are made during times of uncertainty. If a manager recognizes that they made a bad decision, they can come up with an alternative good decision to correct the bad one. It is a learning process. Being able to pull a positive outcome out of a bad decision requires work and, ultimately, good decisions.
It is possible for a manager to involve their workers in decisions. According to the article “Giving Up Control without Losing Control”, when managers involve workers in decisions, it enhances organizational performance. When workers are involved with decisions, they feel like they are more invested in their job and in the company. They feel more important than just a worker. Being an effective leader involves more than just managing using authority, it also includes bettering your company and making your staff happy.
Spreitzer, G.M., & Mishra, A.K. (1999). Group & Organization Management, Vol. 24, No. 2, 155-187
Once a manager realizes that the process of decision making within a business is not a one person process, the possibility of making bad decisions is greatly reduced. In as much as the manager is ultimately responsible for making the final decision, involving knowledgeable, experienced workers in the decision making process provides a more sound foundation on which a business decision can be made. A good leader is truly defined by his counselors around him. During uncertain times or bad situations, good managers should draw on employees who have experienced these same uncertain times for insights and “hunches” or intuitive observations. Managers should also be aware that it is also possible to make bad decisions because of over reliance on experience. One might argue that it is always important to rely on what academia has presented as perfect algorithms for facing situations, a good manager knows that a good mix of what he has learned on the desk with regards to management should be used in conjuction with what the lowest poorly educated employee in the organization has observed in the past thirty years that he has worked for an organization. Therefore, everybody in the organization has a part to play in assisting management make good decisions. Lines of communication should be open at all times. Neverthelss, this does not preclude management from seeking professional advise or looking to other organizations to see how they solved similar crises. At the end of day, recognizing that the input of other people is valuable in coming to a conclusion and making a decision is one of the most fail proof ways to avoid making bad decisions. The manager still needs to realize that even though the information gathering process may involve many people, he or she is ultimatley responsible for the final decision and therefore it should be well thought out. In an article entitled “Why do good managers make bad decisions” from the wall street journal, White states that people are biased in every single situation. Therefore managers need to always keep this in mind, despite all clear factual presentations, biases will exist that might cloud acknowledgement of situations as they really are.
During times of uncertainty, there are various reactions in a group setting. Sometimes people can become withdrawn or otherwise emotionally destructive. Véronique Tran, Professor of Organizational Behavior, performed research on emotional involvement in group decision making. Her findings show that “intense levels of emotion, regardless of its positive or negative nature, appeared detrimental to group decision-making processes, thus providing further support to the important body of literature that considers emotion as an inhibitor rather than a facilitator of decision-making.” (1)
Tran’s research supports the managerial technique of leading by example. Managers who do lead by example are more likely to nourish group cohesion in times of uncertainty. If managers decentralize their authority, they can instill trust in the members that are weak, for instance. In these situations, involving your entire group can help stabilize the whole organization. The overall goal, as related to Tran’s research, will be to keep intensity high, but not to a point that is disruptive.
1) “Emotions and decision-making processes in management teams,” Véronique Tran. http://www.topmba.com; 6/29/10
Charles presents a very good point by stating that emotions can affect decision making. I find this extremely important to understand since each day as physicians we will be dealing with positive and negative emotions while responsible for life or death decisions. Negative emotions may have severe consequences if the physician lets them interfere with decision making. Anxiety and apprehension are two emotions that are felt by physicians. “Decision makers’ anxiety and apprehension about an issue may delay a decision action, which can in turn intensify others’ anxiety and generate tension in an organization.” Another way in which negative emotions can affect physicians is though guilt and defensiveness. These can be seen when a physician makes a wrong diagnosis or a patient dies. “These feelings can affect their reluctance to make such decisions in the future and that the fear and distrust generated though the toxic process may lead to still more intense reactions of fear and anger in the future decision making situations.” While physicians may feel negative emotions, they need to find ways to control them so they do not affect future decisions and affect their abilities to be a good physician.
Maitlis, Sally & Hakan Ozcelik. “Toxic decision process: a study of emotion and organized decision making.” Organization Science; Jul/Aug2004, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p375-393.
I think it’s important to first consider the definition of a bad decision. David McDermott, a former plastic surgeon who now studies human communication and decision making, defines a bad decision as “one in which you override your senses and choose an option that, at some level, you know you should not.” He goes on to clarify that just because the outcome of a decision was bad does not mean that it was necessarily a bad decision. Often decisions are made in times of uncertainty which do not have the anticipated outcomes. Thus, it is important make an informed decision. I think this often requires the counsel of your workers as a manager. Different perspectives offer great benefit and the manager does not lose authority because he can take this information into his decision making process any way he decides. Unfortunately, an informed decision does not always produce positive results in times of uncertainty. Hindsight is always 20/20 but this should not deter a manager from learning from the mistake and using this experience in future decision making. After all, McDermott’s definition states that overriding instincts makes for a bad decision and experience develops these instincts.
McDermott, David. “The Effects of Bad Decisions.” Decision-Making-Confidence.com.
Managers should be able to involve their workers in decisions that directly affect them, in order to relieve the manager of the backlash that can come from the employees if that could become disgruntled. It is not always possible to allow the employees such an involvement, however; whenever it is feasible involving the employees often improves morale and increases productivity. Involving the employees in the managerial decisions of a company shows long term benefit; employee involvement is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.(1) Authority should remain in the hands of the manager to prevent role confusion, but the employee’s often know what will benefit them the most.
1. Employee Involvement: How to Involve Employees in Decision Making ©2010 About.com, a part of The New York Times Company.
The Humble Manager
In my opinion the best way for a manager to make an executive decision during a time of uncertainty is to be well informed. This may require some humility as the manager may have to talk to their employees for advice on what they think needs to happen. The manager must also practice humility to be able to admit that they do not know everything. It certainly is possible for a manager to involve their employees in decision making. It is possible for a manager to involve their employees in decision making in fact it is a great way to gain respect. An effective manager must realize that the decision they make has far reaching effects on their employees down the line. The article “Humble Decision Making” Amitai Etzioni explains the school of thought called “rational ritualism”. This school involves executives and their staffs trading information and data. It says that data should be evaluated in both a shallow and deep way with examination of data broad consideration of facts and choices. If a manager adopts a humble decision making strategy they will be able to use their colleagues’ inputs effectively.
Etzioni, A. (1989). Humble Decision Making. Harvard Business Review , 122-128.
Michelle I agree with your comments. Management is not only about imposing authority or control, to be effective you must function as a team. Effective leaders need to be mindful not only of their accomplishments, but of their character as well. (Baldoni) Sometimes the power and authority that comes with a management position can be abused and create friction in the workplace. There are 3 steps that management can take to maintain humility in management; temper authority, promote others often, and acknowledge the accomplishments of others. (Baldoni) If done properly employees can offer suggestions, feel valued, and appreciate their boss for maintaining respect.
Baldoni, John. “Humility as a Leadership Trait.” 3 Tips for Demonstrating Humility. Harvard Business Review. November 24, 2009.
Managers can overcome the barriers of making bad decisions during uncertainty in many different ways. I am sure I can look up many resources which show what the best way in handling bad decisions is, but I rather use my personal experience. The first thing I believe one has to do is create a plan. Every decision must be carried out in a systematic manner. It is human nature to act on impulse, but we must control our mind. The Bhagwad-Gita (Hindu’s version of the Bible) says that “the mind is an enemy to those who can’t control it. (Society)” Therefore, the first step of the plan should be to think about the decision, whether or not it is a no-brainer. Next, we would have to measure the decisions short-term and long-term pros and cons. Only after we have fully thought about our decision making process, we can be sure we are not making a bad decision.
Another factor that must be concurrent in the decision making pathway is the input from fellow colleagues, whether or not their position is below yours. It is definitely possible for managers to involve their subordinates in critical decisions without giving up authority. By involving your workers, you are making them feel as if they are a part of this process and they will feel less alienated. This can result in better teamwork and communication and result in a much more efficient department.
Society, I. G. (n.d.). Gita Society. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from Gita Society: http://www.gita-society.com/children-gita.pdf
Decisions are an inevitable part of every manager’s daily work life. The difficult part, which usually separates the successful from the unsuccessful managers, is having the ability to turn uncertainty into opportunities. In order to do this a manager must review every past and future decision and outcome in order to reduce uncertainty by bringing to the table every possible alternative. A manager must be very efficient in gathering information. Still, all of this will only reduce rather than eliminate uncertainty. Few decisions that managers make will be without uncertainty, due to the fact that they will never be able to accurately judge every alternative that could happen. One article on decision making stated, “If there is no uncertainty, you do not have a decision; you have an algorithm–a set of steps or a recipe that is followed to bring about a fixed result.”(1) I also feel that managers could form a monthly meeting with employees that discusses common issues facing the company, and allow the workers to give their full opinion on possible solutions. The final decision would be represented by the manager so it would allow employee in-put while keeping the authority in the manager’s name.
1.) “IntroductiIntroduction to Decision Making.” VirtualSalt. Web. 15 July 2010. .
Mistakes are a part of life. Every person makes them every day in one way or another. Whether the mistakes are tiny mishaps or monumental errors, their benefits lie in our abilities to overcome the consequences and learn from the oversights. However there are certain aspects of the decision making process that a manager can employ that can avoid mistakes and lower uncertainty.
Like some of my contemporaries that have replied, I believe that creativity is crucial in making important decisions. In the article, “Out With Tools Boxes, In With Thinking”, the authors suggest that a standard, formulaic approach to modern business problems are dangerous and can result in barriers that inhibit the leaning process within an organization. Alternatively, it is creative, out of the box thinking that will weather the storm in times of significant uncertainty. Furthermore, the article states that “specialization” is key. Managers must rely stratify their staff into focused areas and when a barrier is encountered, the appropriate resources can be consulted in order to make the best decisions. This group oriented approach allows decision makers to promote the sharing of data, ideas, and intelligence without relinquishing any authoritative influence. (1)
1. Industrial & Commercial Training, 1995, Vol. 27 Issue 10, p29-30, 2p; (AN 18997081)
Spreitzer says involving employees in decision making requires risk for managers. Managers’ trust in employees, along with performance information and incentives, will increase managers’ involvement of their employees in decision making. Managers’ involvement of employees is further hypothesized to enhance organizational performance. Ultimately, the more you value your employees and involve them in decision making, the better they will perform because of their at stake involvement. This will not undermine the managers’ authority because the final decision is up to the manager regardless of the input. Employees recognize this and feel more valued if their input is considered regardless of the outcome.
Sometimes this is risky even if the opportunities are obvious but certain if not. According to Stanford, many managers squander their attractive but risky opportunities because they can’t judge risks regardless of employee involvement. Well specified risk appetite can replace confusion, inconsistency, and personal risk aversion and provide a universal yardstick for adjusting value for risk. Then organizations can take the right risks consistently. Management involves risk taking and sometimes bad decisions will be made. As long as these are learned from and not repeated, then something positive has been accomplished.
Spreitzer, Gretchen. “Giving Up Control without Losing Control — Group Organization Management.” Group & Organization Management. 1 Apr. 2004. Web. 16 July 2010. .
Stanford University, Stanford Strategic Decision and Risk Management – On-Demand Webinars.” Stanford University, Stanford Strategic Decision and Risk Management – At Stanford, Online, At Work. 7 June 2010. Web. 15 July 2010. .
A great manager posseses the quality to be able to recognize his/her own strengths and employee strengths, but more critically his/her own weaknesses. Sure, managers have excellent decision-making capabilities, but in times of doubt, a good manager will not be hesitant about seeking information from the employees that he/she manages. The manager should be aware that the team of employees all come from diverse backgrounds with incredible experience in multiple areas, that the manager may not be as familiar with from their past experiences; and it this that managers can exploit to overcome making a bad decision in times of uncertainty. It is important when conducting data to consult resources that know and are provide enough data that covers all aspects of a topic (Vroom, et al., 1973) so a manager could hold a managerial meeting with his/her employees, ask them for input, and receive everyone’s input, without giving up authority. From here, the manager can then assemble all of the information into an information system and use this information system to make a conscious, informed decision.
Vroom, V.H., & Yetton, P.W. Leadership and decision-making. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Managers are often faced with uncertainty; more often than not because of an increasingly turbulent environment as the speeds of information transport increase. In the article, “Decision-Making in a Turbulent Environment” Radford explains several techniques for dealing with problems that arise in these environments. For example, Information gathering is critical as a first step. Gathering information about the participants, discovering the individuals involved that have the power to influence and utilizing their capital effectively. This could consist of workers delegated to certain tasks in which they hold expertise, or vertical/external consultation. Once the correct people are involved, the staff must consider social, technological, and natural elements to begin the process of analysis. Once the problem is properly analyzed, an informed decision can be made.
Radford, K. J. “Decision-Making in a Turbulent Environment” The Journal of the Operational Research Society, Vol. 29, No. 7 (Jul., 1978), pp. 677-682.
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“Many times a sign of wisdom is being able to recognize when someone knows more about something than you, or they possess certain talents and gifts that enables them to make a better decision.” I agree with Neil. However, we mustn’t neglect that fact that it must be challenging for leader to incorporate worker’s input on big decision for such decision might compromise their position as leaders. Not all leaders wish to make decisions alone and not all workers are respectful. The article, Successful leaders value employees as greatest resource by John Florez discusses how workers involvement in decision making affects the way workers perceive their job positively. When workers are involved in decision making, they feel a sense of belonging. Maybe, to avoid negative consequences that could cost the company; the leader should designate certain workers to be part of decision making process-based on performance- so that the leader, he or she would still maintain authority and still make a well thought-out decision.
“Successful Leaders Value Employees as Greatest Resource |Newspaper | Find Articles at BNET.” Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics.21 July 2010. .
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