Leader Volume 9, Number 7
to Avoid in Decision Making
Caruth and Ms. Handlogten are principals, Human Resources
Management Systems, in Rockwall, Texas (email: email@example.com).
They have published Staffing the Contemporary Organization (Quorum Books, Westport, CT,
management expert Peter Drucker, managers do not generally spend a
great deal of time making decisions.
Decision making is, however, the task that has the most
far-reaching consequences. It’s imperative that managers
recognize decision-making mistakes.
Eight of the most common errors follow.
#1: Failure to
Recognize a Problem
operate on a frantic day-to-day basis without recognizing a
problem that’s before their noses.
They seem resigned that things are the way they are because
of the “system,” and someone else must take action. When
schedules present obstacles, or operations aren’t running
according to plan, a manager should suspect that a problem exists. They should act to solve the problem. Frequently, managers don’t recognize the problem as their
responsibility due to lack of experience, or that they recognize
the problem carries with it the obligation to do something. Therefore, no recognition equates to no responsibility.
#2: Incorrect Problem Identification
problem is the next step in effective decision making.
This step is also the most difficult because the more
obvious consequences from a problem are often mistaken for the
actual problem. Managers usually pay most attention to obvious
their time pressures, they are less likely to dwell on what’s
behind a problem. Other factors that keep from identifying the
main problem include inaccurate perceptions and lack of
decision that fails to deal with the real problem is, in effect, a
bad decision because it will most likely produce an unsatisfactory
solution. It will
also result in further decisions having to be made to solve the
Consideration of Alternatives
For any problem,
there are usually a number of alternative solutions.
Failure to think through the alternatives exposes a manager
to the risk of overlooking the best decision.
Therefore, it’s essential that a manager should generate
ideas--think outside the box--and also consider possible
repercussions from each alternative.
Investigate beyond the obvious.
Reasons for not thinking through alternatives range from
the pressures of time to misperceptions.
Decisions, when alternatives aren’t carefully considered,
won’t be as effective as they should be and, more than likely,
will result in someone else having to make another decision at a
Evaluation of Risk
should be evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, or in terms of
the risks involved and the results to be obtained.
Failure to do so often produces high cost, complex
solutions where the payoff is minimal. Managers
can avoid some risk by seeking lower-risk solutions, reducing risk
by training employees, or insuring against risk through insurance
or hedging. If the
decision maker evaluates risk systematically, there’s a good
chance that the decision will be a good one.
handle the same problem over and over, making decisions in each
instance on a case-by-case basis.
Recurring problems can be more efficiently and effectively
resolved through the development of policies, procedures, rules,
regulations and the like. If
a manager lacks authority to initiate plans of this nature, he or
she should refer the recurrent problem to those who can develop
such plans. Situations
which cause recurring problems will not, in most cases, go away.
Thus, continuing to treat the problem on a case-by-case
basis is ineffective and inefficient management.
“Fools rush in
where angels fear to tread” is an old saying that offers sound
the problem confronting a manager is of such a nature that the
best action is to do nothing, to simply watch and wait.
While few problems are likely to improve on their own,
there’s always the possibility that they will not further
deteriorate. To take
action may only subject a manager to unnecessary risk--risk that
could be avoided through “action in inaction.”
When the no-action approach is used, a manager must
continue to observe the situation and take action if it is
#7: Delayed Decisions
evidence to support the contention that decisions improve with
age, that the longer a decision is put off, the higher the quality
of the eventual decision. On
the other hand, fast--but not snap--decisions have at least two
advantages. First, an
expeditious decision gives a manager more time to correct a
situation should the original decision prove to be wrong.
Second, a quick decision allows a manager to move on to
other problem areas.
#8: Lack of Follow-up
implementation should be followed through to see if it is
producing the expected result.
Not every decision is going to be as effective as first
a manager must always monitor the situation to determine if things
are working according to plan.
Many times, decision makers are so relieved to have made a
decision, that they wish to forget it, and go on to other things;
hence, they neglect effective follow through.
When a manager
makes a “good” decision, it often seems that few people
notice; on the other hand, a “bad” decision may be remembered
years later. Lunch-time tales frequently include someone’s poor decision.
And such tales may continue, even years after the
individual has left. Few
managers, and their organizations, can tolerate such fame. Therefore, it’s essential that you maximize your good, and
minimize your poor, decisions.