Decision Making ZAA 101

So far we have looked at the contemporary influences of the current workplace, we have covered innovation, competitive advantage and change management. Now we move to decision making, a critical component for anyone working in an organisation to help it run smoothly, especially for those in management positions.

According to Wikipedia decision making is “the process of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision-maker.”

So how do managers go about making decisions in organisations? Managers quite often use intuitive and systematic thinking in their approach to decision making. Some people refer to intuitive thinking as going with your ‘gut’ but it is actually a lot more than this as intuition is a combination of past experiences and your personal values. The interview with Donna Bain highlights intuitive thinking when Donna mentions the two types of decisions that she makes, the everyday decisions and then the strategic decisions. The everyday decisions that can be made quickly comes from Donna’s past experiences and hence that is why Donna comments they can be made quickly and you move on. The other type of decisions that Donna mentions is the strategic decisions and these have a more systematic approach. Generally these decisions are more complex in nature and managers approach them in a rational step-by-step and analytical manner. However, quite often managers use a combination of intuitive and systematic when making complex or strategic decisions.

Throughout my career I have often found it quite interesting the amount of people who are in leadership roles and will not make decisions. They get caught up in looking for the perfect solution or get so overwhelmed by the number of options that they stagnate and then nothing happens. One of the most frustrating things for staff is if they do all the research, they provide some options or even make a recommendation and then nothing happens, and issues get bottlenecked by management. The ability to make decisions is critical for anyone in the workplace and the following provides a framework for the steps to be considered in the decision making process.

Identify and define the problem

A problem can be regarded as a difference between the actual situation and the desired situation. In one of my previous roles my boss who was quite an abstract thinker would quite often come into my office and announce that “I want X to happen, figure it out and make it happen”, no real specifics were given. So essentially he had a desired situation that he wanted to achieve, then it was up to me to make it happen.

The Devil Wears Prada clip below is a great example of a problem the secretary has to solve by getting the unpublished version of the next Harry Potter book by 4pm!

The Devil Wears Prada | Harry Potter scene | 1.12 mins

Of course, once a problem has been defined then there can be multiple ways to solve that problem. This is where you need to think carefully through the different solutions and evaluate each option. Having worked in Local Government when looking at different solutions I quite often had to consider the political environment as part of my analysis to work out what the best solution might be at that time.

Choose a solution

This step is pretty self-explanatory, actually make a choice and check that you are fine with it ethically. Schermerhorn suggest that you ask two simple questions when you have made you choice, “How would I feel if my family found out about this decision? and how would I feel if this decision were published in the local newspaper?” (p.195). Having worked in Local Government a lot of decisions that were made are available to the public either through right to information or just through word of mouth with community members, and quite often my decisions were published in the local newspaper so I am well accustomed to having to make transparent and ethical decisions. In this day and age scrutiny is everywhere so “A willingness to pause to examine the ethics of a proposed decision may well result in both better decisions and the prevention of costly litigation” (Schermerhorn, p.195).

Implement the solution

As Schermerhorn comments “Managers not only need the determination and creativity to arrive at a decision, they also need the ability and willingness to implement it” (p.192). For example, where possible I liked to get my team involved in the problem solving process right from the start, not because I was indecisive but because I knew when it came time to implement I would need their support. I am also a strong advocate that ‘many hands make light work’ and a better solution can often come from the team than if you work in isolation, especially if that decision has an impact on staff.

Evaluate results

Quite often managers don’t take the time to evaluate their decisions, especially if they had a positive effect. However, in order to improve your decision making make the time to evaluate what worked well and what can be learned from the experience. We all get busy at work but the process doesn’t have to take a long time, we just need to get into the habit of doing it.

Please watch the this Lynda short course by Todd Dewett on making business decisions which gives you some tips on making business decisions.

The following clip by Dr. Joe Arvai on how we can make better decisions also provides some great points on how to make better decisions.

How to make better decisions | Dr. Joe Arvai | 16:27 mins

Please watch the following Q&A with Donna Bain, the CEO of Self Help, as she outlines the process she undertakes when making decisions.

Making Decisions | 3:29 mins

The Five Step Process | 1:17 mins

Ethics and Decision Making | 1:13 mins

Helpful Tips | 1:31 mins



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