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Principles of Management

2.4 Barriers to Effective Decision-Making

Principles of Management2.4 Barriers to Effective Decision-Making
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Managing and Performing
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 What Do Managers Do?
    3. 1.2 The Roles Managers Play
    4. 1.3 Major Characteristics of the Manager's Job
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    7. Chapter Review Questions
    8. Management Skills Application Exercises
    9. Managerial Decision Exercises
    10. Critical Thinking Case
  3. 2 Managerial Decision-Making
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 Overview of Managerial Decision-Making
    3. 2.2 How the Brain Processes Information to Make Decisions: Reflective and Reactive Systems
    4. 2.3 Programmed and Nonprogrammed Decisions
    5. 2.4 Barriers to Effective Decision-Making
    6. 2.5 Improving the Quality of Decision-Making
    7. 2.6 Group Decision-Making
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  4. 3 The History of Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 The Early Origins of Management
    3. 3.2 The Italian Renaissance
    4. 3.3 The Industrial Revolution
    5. 3.4 Taylor-Made Management
    6. 3.5 Administrative and Bureaucratic Management
    7. 3.6 Human Relations Movement
    8. 3.7 Contingency and System Management
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
  5. 4 External and Internal Organizational Environments and Corporate Culture
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 The Organization's External Environment
    3. 4.2 External Environments and Industries
    4. 4.3 Organizational Designs and Structures
    5. 4.4 The Internal Organization and External Environments
    6. 4.5 Corporate Cultures
    7. 4.6 Organizing for Change in the 21st Century
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  6. 5 Ethics, Corporate Responsibility, and Sustainability
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Ethics and Business Ethics Defined
    3. 5.2 Dimensions of Ethics: The Individual Level
    4. 5.3 Ethical Principles and Responsible Decision-Making
    5. 5.4 Leadership: Ethics at the Organizational Level
    6. 5.5 Ethics, Corporate Culture, and Compliance
    7. 5.6 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
    8. 5.7 Ethics around the Globe
    9. 5.8 Emerging Trends in Ethics, CSR, and Compliance
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  7. 6 International Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 Importance of International Management
    3. 6.2 Hofstede's Cultural Framework
    4. 6.3 The GLOBE Framework
    5. 6.4 Cultural Stereotyping and Social Institutions
    6. 6.5 Cross-Cultural Assignments
    7. 6.6 Strategies for Expanding Globally
    8. 6.7 The Necessity of Global Markets
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  8. 7 Entrepreneurship
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Entrepreneurship
    3. 7.2 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
    4. 7.3 Small Business
    5. 7.4 Start Your Own Business
    6. 7.5 Managing a Small Business
    7. 7.6 The Large Impact of Small Business
    8. 7.7 The Small Business Administration
    9. 7.8 Trends in Entrepreneurship and Small-Business Ownership
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  9. 8 Strategic Analysis: Understanding a Firm’s Competitive Environment
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Gaining Advantages by Understanding the Competitive Environment
    3. 8.2 Using SWOT for Strategic Analysis
    4. 8.3 A Firm's External Macro Environment: PESTEL
    5. 8.4 A Firm's Micro Environment: Porter's Five Forces
    6. 8.5 The Internal Environment
    7. 8.6 Competition, Strategy, and Competitive Advantage
    8. 8.7 Strategic Positioning
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  10. 9 The Strategic Management Process: Achieving and Sustaining Competitive Advantage
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Strategic Management
    3. 9.2 Firm Vision and Mission
    4. 9.3 The Role of Strategic Analysis in Formulating a Strategy
    5. 9.4 Strategic Objectives and Levels of Strategy
    6. 9.5 Planning Firm Actions to Implement Strategies
    7. 9.6 Measuring and Evaluating Strategic Performance
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  11. 10 Organizational Structure and Change
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Organizational Structures and Design
    3. 10.2 Organizational Change
    4. 10.3 Managing Change
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    7. Chapter Review Questions
    8. Management Skills Application Exercises
    9. Managerial Decision Exercises
    10. Critical Thinking Case
  12. 11 Human Resource Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 An Introduction to Human Resource Management
    3. 11.2 Human Resource Management and Compliance
    4. 11.3 Performance Management
    5. 11.4 Influencing Employee Performance and Motivation
    6. 11.5 Building an Organization for the Future
    7. 11.6 Talent Development and Succession Planning
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  13. 12 Diversity in Organizations
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 An Introduction to Workplace Diversity
    3. 12.2 Diversity and the Workforce
    4. 12.3 Diversity and Its Impact on Companies
    5. 12.4 Challenges of Diversity
    6. 12.5 Key Diversity Theories
    7. 12.6 Benefits and Challenges of Workplace Diversity
    8. 12.7 Recommendations for Managing Diversity
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  14. 13 Leadership
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 The Nature of Leadership
    3. 13.2 The Leadership Process
    4. 13.3 Leader Emergence
    5. 13.4 The Trait Approach to Leadership
    6. 13.5 Behavioral Approaches to Leadership
    7. 13.6 Situational (Contingency) Approaches to Leadership
    8. 13.7 Substitutes for and Neutralizers of Leadership
    9. 13.8 Transformational, Visionary, and Charismatic Leadership
    10. 13.9 Leadership Needs in the 21st Century
    11. Key Terms
    12. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    13. Chapter Review Questions
    14. Management Skills Application Exercises
    15. Managerial Decision Exercises
    16. Critical Thinking Case
  15. 14 Work Motivation for Performance
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 Motivation: Direction and Intensity
    3. 14.2 Content Theories of Motivation
    4. 14.3 Process Theories of Motivation
    5. 14.4 Recent Research on Motivation Theories
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    8. Chapter Review Questions
    9. Management Skills Application Exercises
    10. Managerial Decision Exercises
    11. Critical Thinking Case
  16. 15 Managing Teams
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Teamwork in the Workplace
    3. 15.2 Team Development Over Time
    4. 15.3 Things to Consider When Managing Teams
    5. 15.4 Opportunities and Challenges to Team Building
    6. 15.5 Team Diversity
    7. 15.6 Multicultural Teams
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Chapter Review Questions
    11. Management Skills Application Exercises
    12. Managerial Decision Exercises
    13. Critical Thinking Case
  17. 16 Managerial Communication
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 The Process of Managerial Communication
    3. 16.2 Types of Communications in Organizations
    4. 16.3 Factors Affecting Communications and the Roles of Managers
    5. 16.4 Managerial Communication and Corporate Reputation
    6. 16.5 The Major Channels of Management Communication Are Talking, Listening, Reading, and Writing
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    9. Chapter Review Questions
    10. Management Skills Application Exercises
    11. Managerial Decision Exercises
    12. Critical Thinking Case
  18. 17 Organizational Planning and Controlling
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 Is Planning Important
    3. 17.2 The Planning Process
    4. 17.3 Types of Plans
    5. 17.4 Goals or Outcome Statements
    6. 17.5 Formal Organizational Planning in Practice
    7. 17.6 Employees' Responses to Planning
    8. 17.7 Management by Objectives: A Planning and Control Technique
    9. 17.8 The Control- and Involvement-Oriented Approaches to Planning and Controlling
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Chapter Review Questions
    13. Management Skills Application Exercises
    14. Managerial Decision Exercises
    15. Critical Thinking Case
  19. 18 Management of Technology and Innovation
    1. Introduction
    2. 18.1 MTI—Its Importance Now and In the Future
    3. 18.2 Developing Technology and Innovation
    4. 18.3 External Sources of Technology and Innovation
    5. 18.4 Internal Sources of Technology and Innovation
    6. 18.5 Management Entrepreneurship Skills for Technology and Innovation
    7. 18.6 Skills Needed for MTI
    8. 18.7 Managing Now for Future Technology and Innovation
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Chapter Review Questions
    12. Management Skills Application Exercises
    13. Managerial Decision Exercises
    14. Critical Thinking Case
  20. References
  21. Index
  1. What barriers exist that make effective decision-making difficult?

There are a number of barriers to effective decision-making. Effective managers are aware of these potential barriers and try to overcome them as much as possible.

Bounded Rationality

While we might like to think that we can make completely rational decisions, this is often unrealistic given the complex issues faced by managers. Nonrational decision-making is common, especially with nonprogrammed decisions. Since we haven’t faced a particular situation previously, we don’t always know what questions to ask or what information to gather. Even when we have gathered all the possible information, we may not be able to make rational sense of all of it, or to accurately forecast or predict the outcomes of our choice. Bounded rationality is the idea that for complex issues we cannot be completely rational because we cannot fully grasp all the possible alternatives, nor can we understand all the implications of every possible alternative. Our brains have limitations in terms of the amount of information they can process. Similarly, as was alluded to earlier in the chapter, even when managers have the cognitive ability to process all the relevant information, they often must make decisions without first having time to collect all the relevant data—their information is incomplete.

Escalation of Commitment

Given the lack of complete information, managers don’t always make the right decision initially, and it may not be clear that a decision was a bad one until after some time has passed. For example, consider a manager who had to choose between two competing software packages that her organization will use on a daily basis to enhance efficiency. She initially chooses the product that was developed by the larger, more well-established company, reasoning that they will have greater financial resources to invest in ensuring that the technology is good. However, after some time it becomes clear that the competing software package is going to be far superior. While the smaller company’s product could be integrated into the organization’s existing systems at little additional expense, the larger company’s product will require a much greater initial investment, as well as substantial ongoing costs for maintaining it. At this point, however, let’s assume that the manager has already paid for the larger company’s (inferior) software. Will she abandon the path that she’s on, accept the loss on the money that’s been invested so far, and switch to the better software? Or will she continue to invest time and money into trying to make the first product work? Escalation of commitment is the tendency of decision makers to remain committed to poor decision, even when doing so leads to increasingly negative outcomes. Once we commit to a decision, we may find it difficult to reevaluate that decision rationally. It can seem easier to “stay the course” than to admit (or to recognize) that a decision was poor. It’s important to acknowledge that not all decisions are going to be good ones, in spite of our best efforts. Effective managers recognize that progress down the wrong path isn’t really progress, and they are willing to reevaluate decisions and change direction when appropriate.

Time Constraints

Managers often face time constraints that can make effective decision-making a challenge. When there is little time available to collect information and to rationally process it, we are much less likely to make a good nonprogrammed decision. Time pressures can cause us to rely on heuristics rather than engage in deep processing. While heuristics save time, however, they don’t necessarily lead to the best possible solution. The best managers are constantly assessing the risks associated with acting too quickly against those associated with not acting quickly enough.

Uncertainty

In addition, managers frequently make decisions under conditions of uncertainty—they cannot know the outcome of each alternative until they’ve actually chosen that alternative. Consider, for example, a manager who is trying to decide between one of two possible marketing campaigns. The first is more conservative but is consistent with what the organization has done in the past. The second is more modern and edgier, and might bring much better results . . . or it might be a spectacular failure. The manager making the decision will ultimately have to choose one campaign and see what happens, without ever knowing what the results would have been with the alternate campaign. That uncertainty can make it difficult for some managers to make decisions, because committing to one option means forgoing other options.

Personal Biases

Our decision-making is also limited by our own biases. We tend to be more comfortable with ideas, concepts, things, and people that are familiar to us or similar to us. We tend to be less comfortable with that which is unfamiliar, new, and different. One of the most common biases that we have, as humans, is the tendency to like other people who we think are similar to us (because we like ourselves).7 While these similarities can be observable (based on demographic characteristics such as race, gender, and age), they can also be a result of shared experiences (such as attending the same university) or shared interests (such as being in a book club together). This “similar to me” bias and preference for the familiar can lead to a variety of problems for managers: hiring less-qualified applicants because they are similar to the manager in some way, paying more attention to some employees’ opinions and ignoring or discounting others, choosing a familiar technology over a new one that is superior, sticking with a supplier that is known over one that has better quality, and so on.

It can be incredibly difficult to overcome our biases because of the way our brains work. The brain excels at organizing information into categories, and it doesn’t like to expend the effort to re-arrange once the categories are established. As a result, we tend to pay more attention to information that confirms our existing beliefs and less attention to information that is contrary to our beliefs, a shortcoming that is referred to as confirmation bias.8

In fact, we don’t like our existing beliefs to be challenged. Such challenges feel like a threat, which tends to push our brains towards the reactive system and prevent us from being able to logically process the new information via the reflective system. It is hard to change people’s minds about something if they are already confident in their convictions. So, for example, when a manager hires a new employee who she really likes and is convinced is going to be excellent, she will tend to pay attention to examples of excellent performance and ignore examples of poor performance (or attribute those events to things outside the employee’s control). The manager will also tend to trust that employee and therefore accept their explanations for poor performance without verifying the truth or accuracy of those statements. The opposite is also true; if we dislike someone, we will pay attention to their negatives and ignore or discount their positives. We are less likely to trust them or believe what they say at face value. This is why politics tend to become very polarized and antagonistic within a two-party system. It can be very difficult to have accurate perceptions of those we like and those we dislike. The effective manager will try to evaluate situations from multiple perspectives and gather multiple opinions to offset this bias when making decisions.

Conflict

Finally, effective decision-making can be difficult because of conflict. Most individuals dislike conflict and will avoid it when possible. However, the best decision might be one that is going to involve some conflict. Consider a manager who has a subordinate who is often late to work, causing others to have to step away from their responsibilities in order to cover for the late employee. The manager needs to have a conversation with that employee to correct the behavior, but the employee is not going to like the conversation and may react in a negative way. Both of them are going to be uncomfortable. The situation is likely to involve conflict, which most people find stressful. Yet, the correct decision is still to have the conversation even if (or especially if) the employee otherwise is an asset to the department.

A photo shows Dante Disparte with hands clasped in prayer as he looks up.
Exhibit 2.5 Dante Disparte Dante Disparte is the founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative and also coauthor of Global Risk Agility and Decision Making. He suggests that unforeseen and unanticipated risks are becoming more frequent and less predictable and are having a greater impact on more people at one time. Credit (New America/ flickr/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

If the bad behavior is not corrected, it will continue, which is going to cause more problems in the workplace in the long run. Other employees may recognize that this behavior is allowed, and they may also start coming to work late or engaging in other negative behaviors. Eventually, some employees may become sufficiently frustrated that they look for another place to work. It’s worth noting that in this situation, the best employees will find new jobs the most quickly. It’s important for managers to recognize that while conflict can be uncomfortable (especially in the short-term), there are times when it is necessary for the group, department, or organization to function effectively in the long run.

It is also helpful to think about conflict in terms of process conflict or relationship conflict.9 Process conflict, conflict about the best way to do something, can actually lead to improved performance, as individuals explore various options together in order to identify superior solutions. Relationship conflict is conflict between individuals that is more personal and involves attacks on a person rather than an idea. This kind of conflict is generally harmful and should be quelled when possible. The harm from relationship conflict arises at least in part because feeling personally attacked will cause an individual to revert to the reactive system of the brain.

Effective managers should be particularly aware of the possibility of relationship conflict when giving feedback and should keep feedback focused on behaviors and activities (how things are done) rather than on the individual. Being aware of and dealing with relationship conflict points to why emotional intelligence and empathy are beneficial in organizational leaders. Such leaders are more likely to be attentive to the harmful consequences of relationship conflict. The “Managerial Leadership” segment shows how one CEO encourages empathetic collaboration and how that effort is proving beneficial.

Managerial Leadership

Satya Nadella’s Transformation of Microsoft

When Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he set in motion a major transformation of the organization’s culture. He wanted it to shift from a culture that valued “know-it-alls” to one that values “learn-it-all.” Instead of employees feeling the need to prove that they were the smartest person in the room, he wanted them to become curious and effective listeners, learners, and communicators. Only through continual learning and collaboration with one another, and with customers, would Microsoft remain able to develop and provide great technology solutions.

One of Nadella’s first mandates as CEO was to ask all the members of the top management team to read the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. The primary focus of the book is on empathetic communication—a kinder, gentler approach than Microsoft employees were accustomed to. Nadella believes that developing empathy leads to a heightened understanding of consumer needs and wants and an enhanced ability to develop better products and services through collaboration.

Nadella has also embraced diversity and inclusion initiatives, though he readily acknowledges that there is more to be done. This is, in part, an extension of his focus on empathy. However, it’s also good business, because increasing the diversity of perspectives can help to drive innovation.

This cultural shift is reflected in Microsoft’s new mission statement: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Empowering every person includes Microsoft’s own employees. Achieving diversity is particularly a challenge in an industry that is male dominated, and Nadella admits that he has made mistakes based on his own biases. At a Women in Computing conference early in his tenure as CEO, Nadella suggested that women did not need to ask for raises when they deserved them; the system, he said, would work it out. He later admitted that he was wrong and used the mistake as a platform for making greater strides in this arena.

Senior management team meetings at Microsoft have apparently changed dramatically as a result of the culture change driven by Nadella. Previously, members felt the need to constantly prove that they knew all the right answers at team meetings. Nadella has established different norms; he seeks out honest opinions from team members and gives positive feedback on a regular basis. By moving the focus away from always being right and toward a focus of continual learning, the culture at Microsoft has become more collaborative, and employees are more willing to take risks to create something amazing. The culture shift seems to be paying off: Microsoft’s products are being described as “cool” and “exciting,” its cloud-computing platform is outperforming the competition, and its financial performance has improved dramatically. Transforming the culture of an organization is a massive undertaking, but Nadella’s leadership of Microsoft clearly shows that it’s a decision that can pay off.

Discussion Questions
  1. Do you think a culture focused on learning makes sense for Microsoft? Why or why not?
  2. What are the advantages of a culture that emphasizes empathetic communication? Can you think of any disadvantages?
  3. The job of CEO means making big decisions that impact the entire organization—like deciding to change the culture. How do you think you prepare for that job?

Sources: Kendall Baker, “Confirmed: Microsoft is a legit threat to Apple,” The Hustle, March 16, 2017. Bob Evans, “10 Powerful examples of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Transformative Vision,” Forbes, July 26, 2017. Harry McCraken, “Satya Nadella Rewrites Microsoft’s Code,” Fast Company, September 18, 2017, https://www.fastcompany.com/40457458/satya-nadella-rewrites-microsofts-code. Annie Palmer, “Microsoft has been reborn under CEO Satya Nadella,” The Street, September 20, 2017.

Concept Check

  1. Explain the concept of confirmation bias.
  2. List and describe at least three barriers to effective decision-making.
  3. When is conflict beneficial, and when is it harmful? Why?
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