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APEX BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS
The Dilemma of decision making
Tools managers need
Hector Chapa Sikazwe,
Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2014
Decision making, strategy, Risk management, Leadership skills, Organization success, efficiency,
competition, Autocracy, participation, Compliancy, Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model, Business
models, Abraham Maslow, Competition, employment success, Decision making styles. Kepner-
Tregoe Matrix, Workflow Management, Process,
Table of Contents
Keywords ........................................................................................................................................... 2
Introduction ........................................................................................................................................ 4
Decision making and time .............................................................................................................. 4
Two styles of Decision making ...................................................................................................... 5
Decision making models .................................................................................................................... 7
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model ...................................................................................... 7
The Kepner-Tregoe Approach ....................................................................................................... 9
The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix comprises four basic steps: .......................................................... 11
Workflow Management/processes and decision making ................................................................. 12
Attributes of a good decision ........................................................................................................... 16
Conclusion ....................................................................................................................................... 19
References and Bibliography ........................................................................................................... 20
Decision making is an essential leadership skill. No matter what position one holds, from the board
room to the mailroom, one makes decisions every day. All successful end results in business are
directly linked to the quality of the decisions made at each point along the way. So not surprisingly,
decision-making is a universally important competence in the success of a business and business
strategy within organizations that have competitive advantage over others.
Some decisions clearly have a greater impact on the business than others, but the underlying skill is
the same: The difference is in the scope and depth of the process managers go through to reach a
decision. Thankfully, decision-making is a skill set that can
be learned and improved upon. Goleman et al (2004)
enthuses that somewhere between instinct and over-analysis
is a logical and practical approach to decision-making that
doesn't require endless investigation, which helps managers
to weigh up the options and impacts. Decisions do not have
to be rammed in, to a point that team members fear the
impact as it comes down.
Decision making and time
One reason why decision-making can be so problematic is that the most critical decisions tend to
have to be made in the least amount of time. Managers constantly feel pressured and anxious. The
time pressure means managers taking shortcuts,
jumping to wrong conclusions, or relying heavily
on instinct that guide most managers along the
If one can learn how to make timely, well-
considered decisions, then one can lead teams to
well-deserved success. But, however, when one
keeps making poor decisions, one’s leadership or authority/employment will be brutally short.
Making good decisions is one of the main leadership tasks and skill set a good manager develops.
Part of doing this is determining the most efficient
means of reaching the decision.
When efficiency and effectiveness are married when describing a decision, the decision is deemed
to have complete efficacy.
Two styles of Decision making
There are predominantly two styles of decision making: Autocratic decision making also known as
authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style characterized by an individual having control over all
decisions and allows little input from group members or subordinates. Autocratic managers typically
make choices based on their own ideas and judgments and rarely accept advice from team members.
Autocratic leadership style involves absolute, authoritarian control over a group or an organization,
department, section or small team.
The second style is called Participatory decision making or Participatory leadership which is a style
of management where decisions are made with the most feasible amount of participation from those
who are affected by the decisions. Participatory decision making style is being used as a leadership
management style today by a significant number of companies and organizations as it responds to
individual members of the organization based on and supported by the theory that participation
satisfies an employee's higher-level needs according to psychologist Abraham Maslow
Naturally, some decisions have to be Autocratic, and some decisions have to be participatory. The
individual decision making circumstances dictate when the pendulum swings from one end of the
spectrum to the other. When a Manager sits down to make a decision, the style, and degree of
participation he needs to get from his team is affected by three main factors:
Efficiency generally describes the extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose
Effectiveness is the capability of producing a desired result. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or
expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority,
culminating in self-actualization. Maslow was a psychology professor at Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New
School for Social Research and Columbia University. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities
in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms” stated that human motivation is based on people seeking
fulfilment and change through personal growth.
1. Decision Quality – how important is it to come up with the “right” solution; the higher
the quality of the decision needed, the more he should involve other people in the
2. Subordinate Commitment – how important is it that his team and others buy into the
decision? If teammates need to embrace the decision a leader makes, then they should
increase the participation levels.
3. Time Constraints – How much time is available to make the decision? The more time
a leader has, the more the luxury of including others, and of using the decision making
process as an opportunity for teambuilding.
To determine which of these styles and processes is most appropriate, there is a series of yes/no
questions that the manager should ask himself about the situation, and building a decision tree
based on the responses. There are seven questions in total:
1. Is the technical quality of the decision very important? Meaning, are the consequences of
2. Does a successful outcome depend on your team members' commitment to the decision?
Must there be buy-in for the solution to work?
3. Do you have sufficient information to be able to make the decision on your own?
4. Is the problem well-structured so that you can easily understand what needs to be
addressed and what defines a good solution?
5. Are you reasonably sure that your team will accept your decision even if you make it
6. Are the goals of the team consistent with the goals the organization has set to define a
7. Will there likely be conflict among the team as to which solution is best?
Decision making models
From the above dilemma, the decision to decide which style is going to be applied in any given
situation, the Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
was developed to assist with such dilemma. A
leader would have to be extremely circumspect when adopting a particular decision making style. In
a nutshell, whether one is going to adopt an Autocratic style of decision making or a consultative or
participatory style, one depends on several factors, there are simple issues that need to be considered:
An autocratic style is most efficient when:
The manager has more or better expertise on the subject than others.
The manager is confident about acting alone.
The team will accept the Manager’s decision.
There is little time available.
The manager is tasked to manage a group decision outcome
In general, a consultative or collaborative style is most appropriate when:
A leader needs information from others to solve a problem.
The problem definition isn't clear.
Team members' buy-in to the decision is important.
The Manager has enough time
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
This model was originally described by Victor Vroom and Philip Yetton in their 1973 BOOK titled
Leadership and Decision Making. Later in 1988, Vroom and Arthur Jago, replaced the decision tree
system of the original model with an expert system based on mathematics. Hence it is not uncommon
to see the model called Vroom-Yetton, Vroom-Jago, and Vroom-Yetton-Jago. The model here is
based on the Vroom-Jago version of the model. This model helps an organization or a manager to
decide on which style is to be adopted when faced with a dilemma. In some business situations it's
better for a leader to be the decision maker on behalf of the group.
The Vroom–Yetton contingency model is a situational leadership theory of industrial and organizational psychology developed by Victor Vroom,
in collaboration with Phillip Yetton (1973) and later with Arthur Jago (1988). The situational theory argues the best style of leadership is contingent
to the situation. This model suggests the selection a leadership style for group decision making. (http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/vroom-
In others, it's best for the group to have some input or even make the decision. This model
distinguishes five different situations and outlines an algorithm for determining which one to use:
Style: Autocratic – you make the decision and inform
others of it.
There are two separate processes for decision
making in an autocratic style:
Processes: Autocratic 1(A1) – you use the information you
already have and make the decision
Autocratic 2 (A2) – you ask team members for
specific information and once you have it, you
make the decision. Here you don't necessarily
tell them what the information is needed for.
Style: Consultative – you gather information from the
team and other and then make the decision.
Processes: Consultative 1 (C1) – you inform team
members of what you're doing and may
individually ask opinions, however, the group is
not brought together for discussion. You make
Consultative 2 (C2) – you are responsible for
making the decision, however, you get together
as a group to discuss the situation, hear other
perspectives, and solicit suggestions.
Style: Collaborative – you and your team work
together to reach a consensus.
Process: Group (G2) – The team makes a decision
together. Your role is mostly facilitative and
you help the team come to a final decision that
everyone agrees on.
The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Decision Model
The Kepner-Tregoe Approach
Once the choice of decision making style is chosen, process becomes absolutely important and there
are different models that have been developed to deal with this. To solve seemingly impossible
problems and make consistently sound decisions, managers can’t always make a “best guess” and
hope for the best. Ever notice that jumping to
conclusions tends to result in costly mistakes? That
panic grows under pressure and the Kepner-Tregoe
Approach becomes very important. Also, ever noticed
that the best-laid plans are easily defeated by the
unexpected happening? Hunches, instinct, and pure
intuition may be inspiring, but they can lead to
unforeseen problems and erroneous decisions that can
cost a business huge setbacks and in some cases,
disastrous consequences. Today’s lean organizations face a dizzying array of issues ranging from
cost control, customer satisfaction, quality, and productivity to competition, change, technology and
more. People with diverse professional, educational, and cultural backgrounds must work together
to resolve issues under intense time pressure. By using Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and
Decision Making tool (PSDM), people can efficiently organize and analyze vast amounts of
information and take appropriate action. PSDM helps teams tap into the know-how of individuals,
develop consensus, gain commitment, and
resolve conflicts. Everyone is on the same
wavelength, using a common approach and
language. And everyone works towards the
same goal, regardless of background or
The Kepner-Tregoe approach is based on the
premise that the end goal of any decision is to
make the “best possible” choice. This is a critical distinction: The goal is not to make the perfect
choice, or the choice that has no defects but to choose the one that has less defects in comparison to
With this model, the decision maker or manager must accept or anticipate some level of risk. An
important feature of the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix is to help evaluate and mitigate the risks of a
manager’s decision. Human beings have biases when making decisions and these can inadvertently
act as a barrier to proper decision making process within organizations and must as such be avoided.
The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix approach guides the decision maker through the process of setting
objectives, exploring and prioritizing alternatives, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the top
alternatives, and of choosing the final “best” alternative. It then prompts the manager to generate
ways to control the potential problems that would crop up as a consequence of the decision.
This type of detailed problem and risk analysis helps a leader to make an unbiased decision. By
skipping this analysis and relying on gut instinct, the manger’s evaluation would be influenced by
his preconceived beliefs and prior experience, which is simply human nature and can lead to
disastrous results. Many business that ignore this warning are die sooner than anticipated.
The structure of the Kepner-Tregoe approach limits these conscious and unconscious biases as much
as possible. The application of process reengineering thought pattern helps in analyzing the entire
process from start to finish with each node/step
being considered as a complete cycle before
moving to the next stage. Concepts from workflow
management that has five parts to describe a node,
ie can help in making a process more successful
than simply rushing through the processes just for
the sake of completing the tasks at hand. The above
can be simplified by marrying the planning and
designing of every node carefully before
After deploying, the decision or workflow must be allowed to prove its efficacy by being properly
analyzed and if need be, changes to the workflow being made by planning and redesigning, thus
going full cycle. This is properly supported by the The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix.
The Kepner-Tregoe Matrix comprises four basic steps:
The Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making process is actually four distinct
processes, each designed to address a specific type of situation:
(a) Situation Appraisal is used to separate, clarify, and prioritize concerns. When
confusion is mounting, the correct approach is unclear, or priorities overwhelm plans,
Situation Appraisal is the tool of choice.
(b) Problem Analysis is used to find the cause of a positive or negative deviation. When
people, machinery, systems, or processes are not performing as expected, Problem
Analysis points to the relevant information and leads the way to the root cause.
(c) Decision Analysis is used for making a choice. When the path ahead is uncertain,
when there are too many choices, or the risk of making the wrong choice is high,
Decision Analysis clarifies the purpose and balances risks and benefits to arrive at a
solid and supported choice.
(d) Potential Problem Analysis is used to protect actions or plans. When a project simply
must go well, risk is high, or myriad things could go wrong. Potential Problem
Analysis reveals the driving factors and identifies ways to lower risk.
Going through each stage of this process helps managers to come to the “best possible choice”, given
the manager’s competency, knowledge and understanding of the issues that bear on the decision.
This Matrix has a premise that managers are well informed, knowledgeable and experienced in that
particular field for them to be able to understand the technical component of the decision and task at
hand. This improved field of analysis provides businesses a clear competitive advantage, as
managers can assess the situation better and faster than competitors.
Success in business often comes from being one
step ahead of the competition and, at the same
time, being prepared to react to what the
competitors are doing their own business. With
global, real-time communication, ongoing rapid
improvements in information technology, and
economic turbulence, managers need to keep
updating and revising their strategies to keep pace with the changing environment. Successful
businesses use novel models that outlines decision loops that supports quick, effective and proactive
The stages can be summarized as:
Observe: collect current information from as many sources as practically possible.
Orient: analyses this information, and use it to update your current reality. (Re-
Decide : Managers should determine a course of action efficiently (Deploy/Manage)
Act: Managers must be fully committed and follow through on the final decision
Workflow Management/processes and decision making
With its ability to integrate with a wide variety of enterprise applications, Workflow can be used to
execute repeatable processes in a consistent manner across the organization, optimizing resource
efficiency, cost and service delivery. With easy streamlining of identifiable processes, decision
making becomes easier to effect and
many organization’s managers have
become more inclined to address
processes when addressing
challenges. According to Cray et al
(1991), Organization’s success is now
closely related to the efficiency of its
everyday business processes.
Increasingly, companies are spreading
“knowledge work” tasks, such as
research and product development,
overseas as a means to increase competitiveness, reduce costs, access new talent pools, and establish
a presence in emerging markets. Yet many organizations struggle to achieve the performance to
which they aspire due to poor decision making. Mintzberg, and Waters. (1985) suggest that many
organizations continue to rely on outdated, manual processes that hamper productivity and interfere
with effective decision making. In today’s increasingly-complex global environment, it’s more
important than ever for organizations to streamline operations and to help staff focus more of their
time on revenue-generating activities that rely on timely decisions that propagate the organizations
path to success. Organizations still face numerous challenges, including:
(a) Management and staff resistance to working across borders under-utilization of staff
capabilities in developing countries
(b) Ineffective handoffs between organizations
(c) Staff turnover and rapidly escalating wages in developing countries
(d) Lack of shared goals and objectives to drive effective collaboration
(e) Negative impacts on staff morale and the working climate
One way to start addressing these challenges is to understand how decision-making (the assignment
of decision rights and accountabilities across a project or process) and workflow (the movement of
information, activities, and products) impact
the global organization’s effectiveness. The
following are some prerequisites managers
need to have to effect good decision making
(a) High-quality data is obviously a
prerequisite for consistently sound
decision-making. The better the
quality of data, the less time mangers
spend debating the data rather than the decisions that have to be made. Managers gain greater
understanding of the company, her competitors and the environment, making it easier to
make strategic decisions. Though data compilation is the easiest part within the decagons
making process, there are basic issues that pose as a challenge for organizations:
I. Data integration: Strategic decisions typically require information from several
different computer systems, and organizations frequently underestimate the
integration challenges involved. Organizations typically address data integration
on a project-by-project basis rather than with a more strategy approach. The result
is massive redundancy and poor quality. For faster integration and lower costs
over the long term, organizations should invest in a robust data integration
platform. Organizations should standardize the data integration process so that it
can be applied over a wider range of projects rather project by project.
II. Data quality: There is no known organization that doesn’t have a data quality
problem. The latest data quality technologies can help organizations answer
questions such as “which systems have the worst data quality?” and “where could
we get the most value from fixing poor quality data?” To improve executive
decision-making, organizations need to invest in systems that evaluate, monitor
and fix data quality.
III. Shared definitions: Effective decision-making requires a shared vocabulary.
Investing in “metadata management” technology can help organizations define
and maintain the definitions associated with their key business indicators and
reduce the number of board-room arguments that are uninspiring.
IV. Timeliness: Faster decisions mean better profits. In particular, organizations are
starting to realize the big benefits that come from investing in integrated financial
systems that help organizations close books faster. Instead of managing by
“looking out of the rear-view mirror”, organizations are investing in predictive
analytics that help to identify issues before hand.
V. Unstructured data: Managers need to be able to use data from all sources, not
just from certain types of databases. It’s increasingly important to be able to
extract intelligence from non-structured data sources such as documents or
emails. Investing in a wide range of software that can be used to extract data from
different formats and data sources. IT investment is vital for organizations that
want to access complex data bases and the training of members of staff to work
these systems is becoming increasingly vital for decision making processes.
and external data: organization’s own systems will rarely contain all the
information needed to make decisions. Benchmarking involves looking outward (outside a
particular business, organization, industry, region or country) to examine how others achieve
their performance levels and to understand the processes they use. In this way benchmarking
helps explain the processes behind excellent performance. When the lessons learnt from a
benchmarking exercise are applied appropriately, they facilitate improved performance in
critical functions within an organization or in key areas of the business environment. In order
to determine an organization’s real performance, and make the right decisions, there is need
to be able to compare and crunch numbers with the economy, the market, or competitors.
New “information on demand” technology is making this as simple as a click of the mouse
in most organizations.
(c) Governance, compliance and risk: Decisions can’t be made without considering risk, and
without considering existing regulatory environments. Doverspike, (2008) States that for
non-operational decisions, such as investment and design decisions, the need to convert risk-
management into rule-compliance is extremely important, although more controversial.
Nevertheless the decision
makers should be willing to
impose prescriptive technical
rules on themselves in relation
to non-operational decisions,
in the interests of safety. Risk-
management and rule-
compliance are inter-related strategies for promoting safety in hazardous and competitive
industries. They are co-existing and complementary, not contradictory. However risk-
management offers very little guidance to end point decision-makers; they need rules to
guide their decisions. Accordingly, it is important, even within a risk-management
framework that risk-management be translated into rule-compliance for end point decision-
makers, where possible. Bromiley and Devaki (201) stated that Organizations need to invest
Benchmarking is the process of identifying "best practice" in relation to both products (including) and the processes
by which those products are created and delivered. The search for "best practice" can take place both inside a particular
industry, and also in other industries (for example - are there lessons to be learned from other industries?).
in risk management systems that are tightly integrated with the rest of their financial
applications and day to day strategic operations. When decisions are being made, decision
safety depends on organizations formulating relevant rules with which workers and the entire
organization must then comply ultimately. Risk management should culminate in rules,
where possible and developing non ambiguous framework is vital for successful decision
making process for any organization and decision makers.
(d) Transparency: Information transparency is key to maintaining high data standards.
Decision makers need to be able to see exactly where the data came from, how reliable it is,
how it was defined or manipulated, and when it was last updated. As a principle, public
officials, civil servants, managers and directors of companies and organisations and board
trustees have a duty to act visibly, predictably and understandably to promote participation
and accountability to the organizations they represent. Simply making information available
is not sufficient to achieve transparency. Large amounts of raw information in the public
domain may breed opacity rather than transparency. Information should be managed and
published so that when a decision is made, the information used should be:
(a) Relevant and accessible: when decisions are made, the information used should
be presented in plain and readily comprehensible language and formats
appropriate for different stakeholders. It should retain the detail and
disaggregation necessary for analysis, evaluation and participation. Information
should be made available in ways appropriate to different audiences.
(b) Timely and accurate: When decisions are made, the information used should be
made available in sufficient time to permit analysis, evaluation and engagement
by relevant stakeholders. This means that the information needs to be provided
while planning as well as during and after the implementation of policies,
decisions and programmes. Information should be managed so that it is up-to-
date, accurate, and complete an unambiguous to foster confidence.
Attributes of a good decision
Good decisions are often judged not so much by their outcomes as they are by the principles on
which they are based. Good decisions have common attributes that must transcend all arguments
and must be based on specific structured styles, processes, and of course must benefit the
organization, department, section or team that the decision maker oversees. Below are a number of
specific attributes that should be apparent if a decision is to be regarded as being good:
a) Purpose: Decision makers should be able to explain why a decision was made. Questions like,
“What was the purpose of the decision in the first place?” Sometimes the reason or purpose is
clear, such as the decision to replace an employee who retires. Other times, it is not apparent why
a decision has been made. Examples could range from implementing a new policy in the
organization, introducing some change management strategy to closing down a poorly performing
department. When decisions are made to solve problems, decision makers want to know that the
decision addresses the root cause and not merely the symptoms.
b) Rationality: Decision makers should be able to describe how the decision was arrived
at. Decision makers should be able to demonstrate that the decision was not made arbitrary
without due considerations of prevailing facts. This is even more serious when dealing with
important decisions that have a large impact on employees and the organization as a whole.
The decision in such instances need to show that careful thought was used to make the decision
and the impact of negative repercussions controlled as much as possible.
c) Relevancy: Managers need to be able to articulate clearly the criteria used to discriminate the
alternatives of the decision. The decision makers should be able to justify why the alternative was
not taken on board. The criteria should be fair, relevant and known to all participating in the
decision making process. The fairness of the decision process depends on whether the criteria
used to make the decision are disclosed originally and that is where good managers thrive.
d) Transparency: As already explained, the level of transparency makes it easier to explain how the
criterion were weighted or scored against each other or how the process influenced the
decision. Decision making ratings are driven by underlying values and to factors that are
important to the organization. The weighting or scoring should reflect reasonable values and also
reflect a rationalization of other values that are disclosed.
e) Comprehensiveness: The decision maker should be able to demonstrate that there was adequate
exploration of alternatives in contention or consideration. Thoroughness of strong microscopic
scrutiny of the consequences of each alternative explored should be demonstrated. Incidentally,
some decisions are never going to be ‘right ‘and regardless of being right or wrong, stakeholders
would like to know that a broad set of options were explored and reasonable care was taken to
consider the consequences of each when the decision was finally made.
f) Authenticity. A decision must reflect that honest evaluation of the alternatives was done with an
open mind. Managers should not make a decision and then use the decision process to rationalize
or legitimize the process or selection of decision. Deciding first and then asking stakeholders to
‘punch holes’ in the logic of the decision is not decision making. At that point, it is merely a
debate and perhaps an indication of an autocratic leadership style, which is not preferred.
g) Inquisitive. Decision makers must clearly be able to show to what extent they solicited others to
participate in the decision making process to provide knowledge, experience, and expertise to
increase the credibility of the decision. It is important to demonstrate to what extent the views of
those either affected by the decision or those
who would be responsible for executing the
decision. It is inevitable that not all decisions
are going to appear to be fair when some
groups are affected disproportionately by the
decision. A good decision must at least
show that that the views of those most
affected by the decision were heard and
considered. While it doesn’t necessarily
take a team to vote on a decision, it makes
sense to have a team participate in the
decision making process to increase the
chances of finding and selecting the best
alternative or solution.
h) Economy: Decisions must demonstrate that the time and resources consumed by the decision
making process was in fact commensurate with the magnitude and importance of the decision.
Decision makers must determine whether they are over-analyzing smaller problems and decisions
that should perhaps be delegated and made at different levels. Granted, for really important
decisions with a large impact, decision must be seen to take the appropriate amount of time to
analyze the decision? The decision must provide Best Value for money. If the alternatives have
an economic cost, Managers must demonstrate that if the least expensive option was selected, it
didn’t sacrifice features and merits viewed as important but residing in the alternative.
Great decision making takes practice. When we think of what makes someone a good manager, one
characteristic that comes to mind is “decisiveness”. We do not envision successful a good manager
standing around appearing unclear, confused and uncertain. Instead, we view them as people who
are able to quickly arrive at their decisions and communicate the goals to others in the quickest time
available. Great leaders also know when to move quickly and proceed with the available information,
versus when to take more time and gather additional information. When leaders opt to pursue
additional information or avenues, they must also know when to stop. While a large amount of data
may be desirable in a perfect world, the data gathering process can utilize too much time, and the
vast amount of data can also be paralyzing and take attention away from the big picture or key data
Good Managers understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively
impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and ultimately their
organizations. Making good decisions in difficult situations is no small attribute because some types
of decisions involve change, uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sometimes the unfavorable reactions
of others. In order to make strategic, long-term decisions, good managers must know how to bring
down the intense emotional reaction so that they can engage a different part of their expertise and
qualifications which is responsible for looking at the big picture and long-term planning.
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