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The Structure of Unstructured Decisions

Why did I read and summarise this?

Pure curiosity and a desire to improve the decision processes within my own company, twenty--twenty. I was going through the Amazon shareholder letters to understand the 'Amazonian thoughts' of Jeff Besoz. In the 2005 Shareholder letter there's a footnote that caught my eye coming from this paragraph:

As you would expect, however, not all of our important decisions can be made in this enviable, math-based way. Sometimes we have little or no historical data to guide us and proactive experimentation is impossible, impractical, or tantamount to a decision to proceed. Though data, analysis, and math play a role, the prime ingredient in these decisions is judgment. [Footnote 1]

[Footnote 1]

“The Structure of ‘Unstructured’ Decision Processes” is a fascinating 1976 paper by Henry Mintzberg, Duru Raisinghani, and Andre Theoret. They look at how institutions make strategic, “unstructured” decisions as opposed to more quantifiable “operating” decisions. Among other gems you will find in the paper is this: “Excessive attention by management scientists to operating decisions may well cause organizations to pursue inappropriate courses of action more efficiently.” They are not debating the importance of rigorous and quantitative analysis, but only noting that it gets a lopsided amount of study and attention, probably because of the very fact that it is more quantifiable. The whole paper is available at www.amazon.com/ir/mintzberg.

So, I gave the paper a read and also found it fascinating. It was a new topic area for me so I decided to set the ideas into my mind by reading and consolidating the paper into a language I understand better.

In this summary, I try to reduce the number of words and the reading difficulty where I could. I summarise the key points and at the end I put myself through an exercise of thinking how one could change an organisation to help it make better decisions.

Let me know what you think!

Links:

Executive Summary

This paper forms a model which has 3 phases. You can break each phase into routines. Phase 1 is identification, broken down into routines of decision recognition and diagnosis. Phase 2 is development, which have routines of search and design. The final phase, selection, is broken down into screen, evaluate-choice and authorise routines. There are some routines which span across all the phases, such as communication, decision control and politics. Though this is explained in a linear fashion, it's more of a cyclical process, with its 'length' determined by dynamic factors such as: interrupts, delays, natural cycles of comprehension and even failure.

Pete's Quick Notes

General

  • The paper does have explanatory power, setting up a 'meritocracy' isn't just a matter of letting ideas be broadcasted.
  • The conclusion was a bit underwhelming.
  • Follow the principles, this isn't something to practice. The diagrams aren't that practically useful. It's out of date, but what principles do we extract from this? We're still humans after all, we just happen to have smart phones, laptops and the internet.
  • Seems useful for organisational design. If these are the building blocks of decisioning, then we can encourage efficiency. It's like a user journey! Where do we start?

Limitations

  • Deriving a general structure of decision processes from 25 different examples is glazing over the topic too much.
  • Diagrams don't show blockers
  • The arrows may show that one routine leads to another, but not how
  • The decisions here take years, what about decisions on short timescales

Next

  • Would love to see a zoomed in and higher sample size version of this.
    • 100 startups of team size 10 deciding the same thing.
  • What are the company activities to enable more efficient decision making?
  • What do fast moving companies take from this?

Existing Research

You could quite neatly put empirical literature on this topic (to date, i.e. 1973) into three groups:

1 - individual decision making in 'lab' games by cognitive psychologists

  • best represented by the book Human Problem Solving (72). They observed participants verbalising their thoughts as they solved man-made problems
  • their research observes the decision making process of ~ as the process of: 1) breaking the problem down into sub-problems; 2) fitting these sub-problems into a more familiar routine/ structure
  • individuals also reduces a complex environment into simple concepts by:
    • using shortcuts
    • aiming for satisfactory results rather than maximal ones
    • reducing timeframe to reduce cognitive load
  • Mintzberg et al conclude:
    • decision processes are programmable, even if they aren't programmed
    • i.e. it is systematic behaviour, step by step, and study-able!
    • but it's not of use to our topic area:
      • we care about structure of decision making, the psychologists cared about participant interaction
      • lab games are an oversimplication of reality

2 - group decision making by social psychologists

3 - real organisational decision making

This paper's posed structure is 'phased', which takes inspiration from Dewey (1910) who said there are 5 phases of reflective thought:

  1. suggestion - mind leaps to a potential solution
  2. intellectualisation - of the difficult into problem / question
  3. hypothesis development
  4. reasoning / mental elaboration of (3)
  5. hypothesis testing

Future research continues, with phases ranging from 3 to 8. The most well know is probably Simon's intelligence-design-choice trichotomy. [link]

In comes Witte (72) who challenges 'phase theorem' by saying that there's no such thing as distinct, sequential phases. He found in his research that the decision processes of data processing equipment did relate to some of Simon's phases but:

  • didn't include enough processes, he found an average of 38 processes and max of 452
  • or, omitted other processes, e.g. problem recognition, info gathering, development of alternatives, evaluation of alternatives

Witte also finds:

  • communication is the dominant activity throughout
  • total activity peaks at the start and end (low in middle)
  • number of choices peaks at the end (humans will inevitably develop alternatives as they gather information)

Mintzberg and friends agree with Witte. Phases make sense, but it doesn't have to be sequential. Here's how they name things. 3 phases at the top level: identification, development and selection. Phases are broken down into routines. Alongside, there are dynamic factors. Together this makes up the 12 basic elements of the strategic decision process.

Setup

Decisions in this paper were labelled in 3 ways:

  1. the stimuli that evoked them
  2. their solutions
  3. process for arriving at solutions.

1) the stimuli that evoked them - a spectrum from (voluntary) opportunity decisions to (involuntary) crisis decisions, with problem decisions falling in the middle. Problems can move up and down the spectrum: delays, temporary solutions, converting crisis into opportunity. Note that the problem definition depends on perspective, i.e. a crisis for one may be an opportunity for another.

2) their solutions - 4 ways:

  • fully developed
  • ready-made
  • custom-made
  • inbetween ready and custom made

3) process for arriving at solutions - the whole point of the paper, read on!

Phase 1 - Identification

Routine 1 - Decision Recognition

Important decisions aren't obvious. Through the heaps of verbal communication, if there's a gap between the actual and expected situation, decisions need to be made! Pound (69) says an expected situation is formed from:

  • past trends
  • forecasts
  • competition
  • people's expectations
  • theory & concepts & models

This routine is where we recognise opportunity from problem from crisis decisions.

An interesting phenomenon - matching. Problem with solution? Reluctant to act. Idea that doesn't solve a problem? Reluctant to act. Opportunity with a problem? A manager will likely initiate some decision making action.

Moment of action is when cumulative amplitude of stimuli > action threshold

Determinants of stimuli amplitude

  • influence of source
  • decision maker's interest
  • perceived payoff
  • uncertainty
  • probability of successful execution

Also:

  • amplitude of stimuli decays over time
  • more frequent / clear / substantive determinants re-inforce each other

Threshold of action changes a lot and depends on:

  • workload
  • number and type of current decisions

Authors suggest more research should be done in this area. Are companies just fire fighters by nature? Or are they failing to find enough time to do the decision recognition because of workload.

Routine 2 - Diagnosis

Okay - we cross the action threshold! The decision maker has some partially ordered data and an interesting situation.

The first step is often tapping and creating new information channels to clear up and define the issues.

Interestingly, diagnosis doesn't have to be formal explicit activity.

Explicit diagnosis emerged most in cases in the middle of problem range continuum but not really at the extremes (crisis / opportunity).

2 ideas: opportunites don't really need diagonising (it's an activity of creativity); and in crisis mode there is no time or energy to do formal diagnosis.

Finally, Drucker noted that what makes the Japanese managers different from the American ones was that they pay careful attention to the daignosis routine.

Phase 2 - Development

The greatest amount of resources are consumed here.

Routine 1 - Search

For ready made solutions, using divergent thinking. There are 4 search behaviours:

  1. memory - scanning the organisation's existing logs
  2. passive - waiting for solutions to appear
  3. trap - use 'search generators' i.e. let your suppliers know of your need
  4. active - directly looking for solutions (wide or narrow)

The search routine is hierarchical and stepwise. An individual would start with memory and trap search. Here it's cheap to consider more alternatives so many arise. You may get a top pick and a secondary to compare (called a "confirmation candidate").

If nothing is adequte, they'll venture out to people and information sources further away - from familiar to unfamiliar sources. Repeated failure would lead to choosing a Design routine, which would yield custom-made solutions.

Routine 2 - Design

To develop or modify custom-made solutions (convergent thinking) through cycles of iteration, ultimately leading to a single solution.

As it's expensive and time-consuming you can't afford to create more than one.

Phase 3 - Selection

Not always the conclusive phase. Decisions can be made of sub-decisions, and each sub-decision has a selection phase.

What the lit says: 3 sequential steps: 1) determine choice criteria 2) evaluation of solutions 3) making the choice But it's never that neat...

Mintzberg prefer these three routines: screen, evaluation-choice and authorisation.

Selection phase is typically multi-stage, iterative and investigations that get deeper.

Routine 1 - Screen

If your search routine (in the dev phase) yields many potential results, then you'll screen so that the next decision makers save time. It's more a task of removing those are that un-realistic rather picking those that are realistic. Search and screen can happen together.

Routine 2 - Evaluation-Choice

This is, by far, where academics have focussed the most. But ironically, it seems less significant than the diagnosis and design routines.

This routine can happen in one of three modes:

  1. judgement - an individual makes a choice (might be a black box)
  2. bargaining - selection decision is made amongst decision makers with conflicting goals (each exercises judgement)
  3. analysis - factual evaluation by technical people then manager chooses using judgement or bargaining

Findings:

  • judgement is favoured - it's fast, convenient and less stressful. Plus is suited towards abstract data, which is what you generally have in strategic decision making
  • bargaining happens on contentious issues, or where there is outside control
  • the literature bangs on about the nuaces of analysis & evaluation. More realistic is the renditon where an analyst presents the analysis, a manager processes it mentally and then makes a judgement

Other studies' findings:

  • you'd think people would know how important each factor is before making a choice. Rather, it seems more likely that the weights are made implicitly during choice making.

When selecting strategic solutions there are a great number of factors and they're often "soft" (such as emotions, politics, power, personality), so the evaluation-choice routine is actually quite crude. There are also dynamic factors and uncertainty. Finally there are also cognitive limitations & biases, intended or not. These factors are also 'scaled' / 'weighted' individually and are independent of each other. To cope, decision-makers use proxies of choice, e.g. imitating or following tradition (Pfiffner, 60).

To make an evaluation, one may use a method of first measuring against a primary goal (never more than three) and then next constraints. It's also important whether the individual is optimising or satisficing (Soelberg, 67). Hopefully we find an option which hits our goals, within our constraints. If there multiple in the 'active roster' then often a crude scale is used, such as much better vs a little better.

This stuff is sounding super obvious...

Routine 3 - Authorisation

This is a yes/no answer to a whole solution and happens when the individual making the choice lacks the power to commit a course of action. It may have to pass through multiple tiers, and may get blocked. Typically you'll ask for authorisation towards the end of the decision process, where you reach a confident solution, but sometimes auth is asked from the outset or during development.

Acceptance = commiting resources, or presenting the solution to the next level.

Rejection = abandonment / redevelopment

Authorisors will often lack the in-depth knowledge that the developers have, yet they manage budgets. Hmm the developer wants it to be approved, the authorisor doesn't want to seem ignorant... capital budgeting is more a distorted political process and less analytical than you think (Carter 71a and 71b, Pettigrew 72, Bower 70)

Supporting Routines

These routines support the three phases:

  • decision control - guide the decision process itself
  • communication - provide input and output info
  • political - working a solution in an environment of influencing and sometimes hostile forces

Supporting Routine 1 - Decision Control

This is decision making about decision making - what are the steps to a solution but also, what's our approach, what resources do we need?

FIrst part is decision planning:

  • The decision maker (often informally) establishes bounds - a schedule, a development strategy, an estimation of resources needed, an idea of a great solution. These bounds get clearer as things progress.

Then, the decision maker would jump to a routine - do we diagnose the problem? Or search for solutions?

Supporting Routine 2 - Communication

Three sub-routines:

  • exploration - general scanning for info and slight review of what appears. This is used to figure out situations, build models and a database, all for future decision-making.
  • investigation - focussed search and research for specific decision making (you have a question to answer). Used more in earlier routines, such as diagonisis and development.

Cyert el al (56) finds that most time is spent on gathering info to determine the consequences of alternatives. Witte (72) finds communication follows a U shaped curve (most active at the start and finish of the decision process).

  • dissemination - the more people involves, the more ime decision makers spend dissemintating info about progress. Also (anecdotal) evidence that the further along the decision process the more info is disseminated. Perhaps because there's more confidence in the solution and to support the eventual adoption of the solution.

Supporting Routine 3 - Politics

Political activities reflect the influence of individuals who seek their personal and institutional needs by the organisational environment. They may be inside or outside the org, because what ties them in, is that a decision outcome involves them.

Political activities clarify power relationships, but also:

  • bring about consensus
  • mobilise resources

This supporting routine generally appears during the bargaining routine (in the evaluation-choice phase).

Can happen:

  • disputes over whether it's an issue
  • if centres of power are disregarded during development (leading to a late confrontation)

Levellers:

  • higher powers removing sources of resistance
  • disseminating information during early phases (persuasion)
  • inviting dissidents to participate in development phase (co-optation)

The more important / contentious the outcome of a decision is and the more influence that lies outside the org, the more time people put into selection, communcation, bargaining and persuasion routines.

Dynamic Factors

The previous describes process, phases and routines. Pretty standard. What makes things strategic are these factors which change the timeline.

Six groups:

  • interrupts - environmental force
  • scheduling, timing delays and speed ups - affected by decision maker
  • feedback delays
  • comprehension cycles
  • failure recycles - problems in the decision process itself

Dynamic Factor 1 - Interrupts

These cause changes in pace or direction. Due to:

  • unexpected constraints emerging
  • political blocks

Solutions

  • re-directing decisions
  • political redesigns
  • waiting till blockages disappear

Often interrupts beget interrupts. More frequent in high pressure environments.

Dynamic Factor 2 - Scheduling Delays

Managers are time constrained. Without big blocks of time, they'll break complex decisions into chunks, which can introduces time delay.

Dynamic Factor 3 - Feedback Delays

It just takes time to get the results/ reactions of a previous step. Some activities need some incubation period before insight arrives.

Dynamic Factor 4 - Timing delays and Speed Ups

Not written up much, but realise that managers control pace to:

  • take advantage of special circumstances
  • sync action with other actions
  • to create surprise
  • buy time (stalling / bluffing / finding temp solutions)

Smooth execution doesn't mean do things as fast as possible.

Dynamic Factor 5 - Comprehension Cycles

Remember the theme of this paper. Decision processes aren't an assembly line, rather more like a cycle, where we often jump back to earlier phases. You can cycle within a single routine, or between multiple to gain further insight into complex decisions.

Dynamic Factor 6 - Failure Recycles

It may not be appropriate to continue a process, or to implement a solution. The payoff may be too low. They can't stay within constraints. Maybe it just doesn't appeal to the authority. So, we delay, wait or go back to development with some different constraints or goals.

That's all the components, now we develop a model.

image

A bit overwhelming huh? Here's the gist of it:

  • This is the general model, meaning it includes everything you need to 'draw out' any other decision process
  • The 3 phases are right at the top (Identification, Development, Selection)
  • The three arrows on the far left imply the amplitude of stimuli is greater than the action threshold (i.e. the decision engine starts!)
  • We want to go from X1 to X6 (left to right)
  • You see at junctions, there are arrows that lead to routines (boxes)
    • Junctions can go to one of many routines, or even go back (the idea of cycling)
  • The zig zags show delays
  • The equals lines (at X10 to X12) are interrupts

The paper then goes through different decision processes, explained by drawing a timeline on the general model.

image

Figure 2 - the decision process of passing a policy of mandatory retirement at age 65

The line shows what happened:

  • the proposal was blocked at recognition stage
  • later, the proposal was blocked at diagnosis stage
  • 10 years later, it was passed through quickly in a period of recession

A more difficult example: acceptance of a new treatment in a hospital.

image

To flesh out the diagram:

  • Appointment of new director kicks off the process
  • He diagnoses the need but it's blocked by politics
  • He engages in some political design by hiring 4 doctors experienced in that treatment and replacing the head of nursing
  • An interuption occurs (accusation of malpractice)
  • A report is generated (design routine)
  • Agreement to implement in 1 ward (evaluation-choice)
  • A strike occurs because efficiency gains lead to potential layoffs (interrupt)
  • etc etc...

Features of this:

  • highly political environment
  • lots of interrupts
  • one person's opportunity (the director) is another's crisis (head doctors)

The authors continue, and go over three more examples. I'll save you the time and summarise:

A regional airline wanted to acquire new jet aircraft. This decision was interupted by a new CEO. They then dived deep into an evaluation-choice routine, but ultimately when another airline went into administration the CEO quickly took the opportunity to buy up these craft at a good price. Multiple routines needed authorisation on three successive levels.

In the cases which needed the most design activity (often new product development or marketing), they were driven by opportunity, and the new profit motive outweighed political power.

In some cases, a basic design process were jolted into a dynamic one.

Conclusion

Strategic decision processes are complex and dynamic, but we can still put it on a diagram (which structures the concepts). But they've barely scratched the surface.

They haven't dived into the routines. Nor looked into how multiple decisions inter-relate (formulating a strategy). What about comparing decisions at the top versus at the bottom.

Follow on Exercise

What could a company do to improve each element of the decision process?

The Structures of Unstructured Decisions

NameTypeImprovement
1 - Decision Recognition
Phase 1 - Identification
Encourage people to seek, talk and write down ideas / opportunities. Spread ideas. To know we're not hitting expectation requires good monitoring (a data culture), an ability to talk about company problems, great goal setting and an internal motivation to accept degradation or stagnation and turn the vector instead towards growth.
2 - Diagnosis
Phase 1 - Identification
Instill cultural value of diagnosing well first, as it'll save time and resource for later. Share diagnosises with teams. Bring in analysts who can share learnings, otherwise they'll just be outsourced the job.
3 - Search
Phase 2 - Development
Have search experts. Nodes that know where things are or where to look. I.e. "Librarians". Leave pockets of knowledge around if people have already tried to solve the problem. Encourage early (and novel) problem solving to use off the shelf tooling, and only custom-designs when there is a validated problem-solution fit that needs optimisation.
4 - Design
Phase 2 - Development
Leave design blueprints of previous projects. Make sure to involve cross functional teams for projects that are cross functional. Encourage feedback and iteration design loops.
5 - Screen
Phase 3 - Selection
Had standards of screening. 80% of market solutions looked at, custom solution assessed. What does a good screening process look like? It's a waste to have to come back to this routine when you find another potential candidate you forgot.
6 - Evaluation & Choice
Phase 3 - Selection
Offer standardised criteria to choose from. Choices should be explained rather than using black box thinking - encourages better decisions.
7 - Authorisation
Phase 3 - Selection
Involve at the earliest and appropriate stage, esp if it's a contentious topic. Help those below authority understand how authority thinks and how to work with it. Ensure that authority doesn't become unrealistic, overpowered, biased etc - have checks and balances on authority. Instill cultural values that authority can be challenged. Not at all times, but at constructive times, and that it's safe to do so.
8 - Decision Control
Supporting Routines
Train or document the concepts of designing the decision process. This prevents things happening on the spot, adhoc and unprepared.
9 - Communication
Supporting Routines
Encourage strong, high quality and effective communication, always. Doesn't mean it's insensitive. It's a 5 min catch up when needed, or an hour presentation where everyone is prepared. Might be async or live. Whatever's best to communicate and mobilise action towards global goals.
10 - Politics
Supporting Routines
Is it possible to have people's personal interested align very strongly to company ones? Regardless, let's make it transparent for everyone. We should know what each person wants and make decisions that are more often than not, win-wins. User comes first then it's your team then it's you. Let's instill and encourage this thinking. We shouldn't allow power to be concentrated, and the dispersal of power should be possible under certain circumstances, e.g. for the greater good or against 'evil' actions.
11 - Interrupts
Dynamic Factors
Interrupts will always happen, it's a forming a standardised method of dealing with it. Dealing with it so we can move on swiftly, so that we aren't too destablised (as a person, team or company). Locus of control concepts relate here. In the paper's model Interrupts slow down the core decision process, but forget to mention that it also creates new opportunities / problems / crises. Thus let's build an appreciation for interrupts.
12 - Scheduling Delays
Dynamic Factors
Discourage the use of scheduling delays where possible. If it's important it should be prioritised up and dealt with in a flow manner. If it neccessarily needs chunking up then sure, but let's not let procrastination or in-action develop. This is done by having a culture of accountability and supportive assistance. Champion the behaviour of high quality and high speed executive of important things.
13 - Feedback Delays
Dynamic Factors
Feedback should be placed much higher than other assets in people's minds. Feedback to people, products, projects should be seen as gold. Good feedback takes time, but we mustn't forget that great feedback is also well times. Feedback loses relevance after a certain time period. Let's figure out what the optimal balance may be. Hypothesis: timely good feedback is better than ill-timed great feedback. We will absorb feedback better when we can relate it to recent experiences.
14 - Timing Delays / Speed Ups
Dynamic Factors
Managers should strive to become masters of orchestration. Orchestrating people, resources, decisions etc, but also in the timing of the parts coming together. Speeding up or slowing down a project shouldn't causes stress on those involved, so shouldn't be done in black box. Communicating clearly the reasons shares learnings, aligns motivations and builds team rapport.
15 - Comprehension Cycles
Dynamic Factors
Agree with cyclical thinking and routines, so we need to be willing to elegantly step forward and back, up and down to hone our decision quality. But spinning around in circles is also not progressive. There should be thresholds/ constraints drawn, or an understanding of when we're spinning around too much, and an escape hatch / standard rule to let us eject before we end up wasting all our time and resources.
16 - Failure Recycles
Dynamic Factors
One common problem here would be stubborness and an unwillingness to admit failure / defeat, thus leading to implementation of poor decisions. Accountability to decisions (so you can't run away) are important as well as a supportive environment where we celebrate the courage to stop a whole process to save future turmoil. Whether we back to the drawing board, or modify the goals / constraints or put the project on pause, lets document our learnings and see how we can bring this back into the decision making structure to understand how we could have avoided this detour. Maybe we couldn't, and that's okay.

Phase 2 - Development

The greatest amount of resources are consumed here.

Routine 1 - Search

For ready made solutions, using divergent thinking. There are 4 search behaviours:

  1. memory - scanning the organisation's existing logs
  2. passive - waiting for solutions to appear
  3. trap - use 'search generators' i.e. let your suppliers know of your need
  4. active - directly looking for solutions (wide or narrow)

The search routine is hierarchical and stepwise. An individual would start with memory and trap search. Here it's cheap to consider more alternatives so many arise. You may get a top pick and a secondary to compare (called a "confirmation candidate").

If nothing is adequte, they'll venture out to people and information sources further away - from familiar to unfamiliar sources. Repeated failure would lead to choosing a Design routine, which would yield custom-made solutions.

Routine 2 - Design

To develop or modify custom-made solutions (convergent thinking) through cycles of iteration, ultimately leading to a single solution.

As it's expensive and time-consuming you can't afford to create more than one.

Phase 3 - Selection

Not always the conclusive phase. Decisions can be made of sub-decisions, and each sub-decision has a selection phase.

What the lit says: 3 sequential steps: 1) determine choice criteria 2) evaluation of solutions 3) making the choice But it's never that neat...

Mintzberg prefer these three routines: screen, evaluation-choice and authorisation.

Selection phase is typically multi-stage, iterative and investigations that get deeper.

Routine 1 - Screen

If your search routine (in the dev phase) yields many potential results, then you'll screen so that the next decision makers save time. It's more a task of removing those are that un-realistic rather picking those that are realistic. Search and screen can happen together.

Routine 2 - Evaluation-Choice

This is, by far, where academics have focussed the most. But ironically, it seems less significant than the diagnosis and design routines.

This routine can happen in one of three modes:

  1. judgement - an individual makes a choice (might be a black box)
  2. bargaining - selection decision is made amongst decision makers with conflicting goals (each exercises judgement)
  3. analysis - factual evaluation by technical people then manager chooses using judgement or bargaining

Findings:

  • judgement is favoured - it's fast, convenient and less stressful. Plus is suited towards abstract data, which is what you generally have in strategic decision making
  • bargaining happens on contentious issues, or where there is outside control
  • the literature bangs on about the nuaces of analysis & evaluation. More realistic is the renditon where an analyst presents the analysis, a manager processes it mentally and then makes a judgement

Other studies' findings:

  • you'd think people would know how important each factor is before making a choice. Rather, it seems more likely that the weights are made implicitly during choice making.

When selecting strategic solutions there are a great number of factors and they're often "soft" (such as emotions, politics, power, personality), so the evaluation-choice routine is actually quite crude. There are also dynamic factors and uncertainty. Finally there are also cognitive limitations & biases, intended or not. These factors are also 'scaled' / 'weighted' individually and are independent of each other. To cope, decision-makers use proxies of choice, e.g. imitating or following tradition (Pfiffner, 60).

To make an evaluation, one may use a method of first measuring against a primary goal (never more than three) and then next constraints. It's also important whether the individual is optimising or satisficing (Soelberg, 67). Hopefully we find an option which hits our goals, within our constraints. If there multiple in the 'active roster' then often a crude scale is used, such as much better vs a little better.

This stuff is sounding super obvious...

Routine 3 - Authorisation

This is a yes/no answer to a whole solution and happens when the individual making the choice lacks the power to commit a course of action. It may have to pass through multiple tiers, and may get blocked. Typically you'll ask for authorisation towards the end of the decision process, where you reach a confident solution, but sometimes auth is asked from the outset or during development.

Acceptance = commiting resources, or presenting the solution to the next level.

Rejection = abandonment / redevelopment

Authorisors will often lack the in-depth knowledge that the developers have, yet they manage budgets. Hmm the developer wants it to be approved, the authorisor doesn't want to seem ignorant... capital budgeting is more a distorted political process and less analytical than you think (Carter 71a and 71b, Pettigrew 72, Bower 70)

Supporting Routines

These routines support the three phases:

  • decision control - guide the decision process itself
  • communication - provide input and output info
  • political - working a solution in an environment of influencing and sometimes hostile forces

Supporting Routine 1 - Decision Control

This is decision making about decision making - what are the steps to a solution but also, what's our approach, what resources do we need?

FIrst part is decision planning:

  • The decision maker (often informally) establishes bounds - a schedule, a development strategy, an estimation of resources needed, an idea of a great solution. These bounds get clearer as things progress.

Then, the decision maker would jump to a routine - do we diagnose the problem? Or search for solutions?

Supporting Routine 2 - Communication

Three sub-routines:

  • exploration - general scanning for info and slight review of what appears. This is used to figure out situations, build models and a database, all for future decision-making.
  • investigation - focussed search and research for specific decision making (you have a question to answer). Used more in earlier routines, such as diagonisis and development.

Cyert el al (56) finds that most time is spent on gathering info to determine the consequences of alternatives. Witte (72) finds communication follows a U shaped curve (most active at the start and finish of the decision process).

  • dissemination - the more people involves, the more ime decision makers spend dissemintating info about progress. Also (anecdotal) evidence that the further along the decision process the more info is disseminated. Perhaps because there's more confidence in the solution and to support the eventual adoption of the solution.

Supporting Routine 3 - Politics

Political activities reflect the influence of individuals who seek their personal and institutional needs by the organisational environment. They may be inside or outside the org, because what ties them in, is that a decision outcome involves them.

Political activities clarify power relationships, but also:

  • bring about consensus
  • mobilise resources

This supporting routine generally appears during the bargaining routine (in the evaluation-choice phase).

Can happen:

  • disputes over whether it's an issue
  • if centres of power are disregarded during development (leading to a late confrontation)

Levellers:

  • higher powers removing sources of resistance
  • disseminating information during early phases (persuasion)
  • inviting dissidents to participate in development phase (co-optation)

The more important / contentious the outcome of a decision is and the more influence that lies outside the org, the more time people put into selection, communcation, bargaining and persuasion routines.