Decision Making:<br />An Essential Leadership Skill <br />Sarita Hinojos - San José State University - LIBR 204-11 - Spring 2011<br />
Decision Making: An Essential Leadership Skill<br />
Qualities and Characteristics<br />Leaders possess many personal qualities and characteristics that influence their organizational decision-making style. Among these are accountability, risk tolerance, and value orientation. Successful leaders should be willing to take responsibility for their actions, take calculated risks, and adapt their values to make decisions that will prove most beneficial for their organization. Leaders often need to be fearless because “the unpredictability or uncertainty that surrounds most decision making, as well as the accountability factor (at least organizationally), means that a person has to assume some degree of risk with each decision” (Evans & Ward, 2007, p. 127). <br />
Accountability<br /><ul><li> A crucial part of making decisions is being able to take responsibility for the resulting consequences of during those decisions into actions. No matter how careful the decision maker is about choosing the correct course of action, no one can be right one hundred percent of the time.
Evans and Ward (2007) point out that “some people do not like to make mistakes, so they try to avoid problematic decisions. Essentially they hope to avoid accountability from decisions that go wrong. From an organizational point of view, someone must be accountable” (p. 126).
An effective leader must not be afraid to be accountable for all the decisions that he or she makes, whether they turn out to be right or wrong.</li></ul>Qualities and Characteristics<br />
Risk Tolerance Continuum<br />Fight<br />Flow<br />Flight<br />Qualities and Characteristics<br />Avoiding risk, confrontation, and change can lead to procrastination of decision making.<br />A balance of the extremes based on recent experience is the best way to maintain balance.<br />Seeing challenges in decisions without worrying about risk can lead to quick gut decision making.<br />Evans & Ward, 2007, pp. 127-128<br />
Value Orientation<br /><ul><li>Analytical Style:
Balance of risk and tasks/people</li></ul>People<br />Consistent<br />Qualities and Characteristics<br />Tasks<br /> High risk<br /> Low risk<br />Evans & Ward, 2007, pp. 129-130<br />
Approaches to Decision Making<br /><ul><li> Besides having necessary personal qualities, leaders must determine which approach to decision making is best for their organization.
Are the best decisions made on specific times or days on the calendar, or are they made more as part of a continual process that occurs throughout the year?
Are these decisions made from an open exchange between team members, or are they made as a result of the strongest voice in the room?
It is essential for leaders to recognize these differences and act accordingly. </li></ul>&<br />Event vs. Process<br />Inquiry vs. Advocacy<br />
Event vs. Process<br />Approaches to Decision Making<br />“The fact is, decision making is not an event. It’s a process, one that unfolds over weeks, months, or even year; one that’s fraught with power plays and politics and is replete with personal nuances and institutional history; one that’s rife with discussion and debate; and one that requires support at all levels of the organization when it comes time for execution.” – Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p. 110<br />
Garvin and Roberto, 2001, p. 110 <br />Inquiry vs. Advocacy<br />Approaches to Decision Making<br />
Obstacles to Overcome<br /><ul><li>According to Mankins and Steele (2006), “The most common obstacles to decision making…are disagreements among executives over past decisions, current alternatives, and even the facts presented to support strategic plans” (p. 84). While it is important for leaders to possess individual decision making skills, often they must know how to rely on other team members to present facts and weigh alternative solutions. It is In these group situations where obstacles to the decision making process may arise.</li></ul>Deciding too early<br />Groups may resort to “groupthink” due to a desire to speed up the decision making process or to avoid uncomfortable conflict of opinions.<br />Groupthink resorts in the suppression of a full range of options<br />Leaders need to pay attention to body language to make sure that everyone is indeed on the same page.<br />A quick decision is not always the best decision! <br />Deciding too late<br />Groups may become deadlocked in their debate due to a desire for equal participation and hear everyone’s questions and opinions.<br />Leaders need to “call the question” when pressure for a timely decision is needed.<br />A lengthy debate does not always lead to the best decision! <br />Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p. 115 <br />
Wearing Two Hats<br />Cowboy Hat<br /><ul><li>In order to overcome obstacles in the decision making process, an effective leader must be able to quickly switch roles, especially during discussions and debate.
Jamie Houghton, CEO of Corning, came up with a metaphor for two of these different leadership roles:
During decision making, he “wears” his cowboy hat, meaning that he is an equal member of the group, which facilitates an ease in discussion and debate amongst its members.
Then, if a deadlock occurs, he “puts on” his bowler hat when he calls the question, signaling closure to the debate and resulting in a final decision.
Thus, a leader has to be a supportive peer as well as an authoritative voice throughout the decision making process.</li></ul>Bowler Hat<br />Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p. 115 <br />Obstacles to Overcome<br />
Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Decisions<br />Decision making is arguably even more essential to an organization and its leaders than strategic planning. Mankins and Steele (2006) explain that “identifying and making decisions is distinct from creating, monitoring, and updating a strategic plan, and the two sets of tasks require very different, but integrated, processes” (p. 81). They go on to say that “despite all the time and energy most companies put into strategic planning, the process is most often a barrier to good decision making…. As a result, strategic planning doesn’t really influence most companies’ strategy” (p. 81). Strategic planning is often thought of as an underlying factor in producing effective change in an organization. However, as the research above suggests, it is instead decision making that is at the core of dynamic strategic action. Therefore, strategic decision making skills should be a priority for any effective leader.<br />
References<br />Evans, G. E., & Ward, P. L. (2007). Management basics for information professionals (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schumann Publishers, Inc.<br />Garvin, D. , & Roberto, M. (2001). What you don't know about making decisions. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 108-116. <br /> <br />Mankins, M. , & Steele, R. (2006). Stop making plans; start making decisions. Harvard Business Review,84(1), 76-84.<br />“…above all else leaders are made or broken by the quality of their decisions.”<br /> – Garvin & Roberto 2001, p. 108<br />