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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Decisions about making decisions,
April 13, 2008, 2D.
When beginning a
home repair project, it is helpful to have all necessary tools close at hand. It is often advisable to even have extra tools
within reach should the project be more complicated than originally thought. The larger the variety of tools in a handymans
toolbox, the more likely he will be to fix the problems that he encounters.
In a way, a manager
is like an organizational handyman. Managers
identify and solve many types of problems (e.g., personnel, planning, scheduling,
budgeting, technology, operations, facilities, policies, resources, etc.) with the best
interests of their organizations in mind. Some
problems are straightforward and predictable and others are more complicated. A good manager, like a good handyman, is able to
quickly determine the types of tools that he needs to fix the problems that he encounters.
Sometimes the tools
that are needed to solve organizational problems are co-workers and the knowledge,
insight, and creativity that they possess. People
use the knowledge that they gain from past experiences to define and remedy the problems
that they encounter. Knowledge can be
gained from direct personal experiences or from the experiences of others. Groups are able to outperform individuals on
mental tasks in large part because of the diversity of experiences that members bring to
their groups. When the experiences of group
members are used to solve problems instead of just those of a single manager, better
solutions usually arise. The benefits of
group problem solving, however, come with costsprimarily, the time spent by group
members away from their normal work responsibilities.
Not all of the
decisions that managers make need to be solved with the help of coworkers. Managers can make some decisions with little or no
input from workers. Effective managers know
when to solicit input from others and when to solve problems by themselves.
Decision Model, developed by Victor Vroom and his associates, gives explanation to the
appropriate level of worker involvement in the decision-making process. Decision acceptance and decision quality drive the
model. When it is important that workers buy
into and accept the decision, they should be included in the decision-making process. Likewise, when it is important that exceptional
and high-quality solutions be developed, more people should be included in the process. Time should also be considered when selecting the
appropriate degree of worker involvementas time available to make decisions
decreases, more autocratic decision styles are appropriate.
The model also
describes five decision-making styles that range on a continuum from autocratic
to group. The autocratic style is one where managers make decisions
independently and autonomously. The middle
dimensions involve the manager collecting relevant information from others, consulting
with individual coworkers, and consulting with groups of workers before making decisions. Under the group style, managers allow
their workers to solve problems. The
appropriate decision-making style is dictated by characteristics of the situationacceptance,
quality, and time. Like tools, different
decision-making styles are appropriate for different types of problems and skilled
managers know when and how to use each of them.
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