In this article we will discuss about Decision Making. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Meaning of Decision Making 2. Stages in Decision Making 3. Steps.
Meaning of Decision Making:
Decision making means deciding to choose one of several alternatives. One day you go to the market with Rs. 1,000 to buy a saree. The salesman shows you several sarees of similar rate and you have to decide which saree you would like to buy. This is decision making.
While making such a decision one has to consider, the quality, colour, texture, print etc. of the saree and whether it will suit her or not. Besides, whether the design of the saree is the ‘in’ thing, that has also to be considered.
When the budget is fixed or there are few alternatives, the scope of decision making is limited or narrowed down and conflict is less. When there are several alternatives there is more conflict. Sometimes one has also to make a compromise in decision making, i.e. one may not be very much satisfied with his decision, but he has to make it, due to other constraints. This is only an example of a simple decision making, which one faces more often in his day today life.
But occasionally, circumstances became such that one becomes involved in major decisions which produce tremendous conflict and tension because of the uncertainty or unawareness of the relative merits and dements of the other alternatives. If the various alternatives do not differ much in quality or durability, the difference between them is narrowed down and hence very marginal, this makes decision a smooth process.
Further the decision should be such that it would not create subsequent problems. Sometimes a wrong choice may have negative, far reaching and unpleasant consequences like decision to accept or change a job, to study arts or science, selection of subjects in the college carrier, to leave one political party and join another, to file a divorce, to agree to undergo surgery, to leave one’s own country and join a job abroad, more often than not are complex decisions. Such decisions are usually accompanied by anxiety, tension, fear, doubt and regret.
While making a decision one usually reviews the different aspects of the decision and its advantages and disadvantages. It is believed that man is a rational organism and he has to make a choice only after exploring all the available alternatives in terms of their expected utility and net gain. Since decision making involves complex and complicated judgements, if not delivered carefully after proper examination and with due reasoning, the decision may be hasty and erroneous.
It is seen that when there is a crisis of self confidence or when things are done hastily, the decisions taken, turn to be bad and unprofitable. Those people who are hasty and over confident of themselves they take decisions without proper analysis of the situations. Consequently such decisions also become bad. Lack of confidence also make many people indecisive and they cannot take a judicious and logical decision in right time. It is also seen that some people make bad decisions repeatedly and repent afterwards.
They become complete failures in their personal, social and professional life. Analysis of the cycle of their personal history reveals that they cannot take right decisions and depend upon others for help and assistance. If they are asked to make their own decisions they commit mistakes and are criticized. Repeated wrong decisions and failure due to wrong decisions, devaluates their self confidences and strength of mind. Their self esteem is at danger. A fear psychosis develops when they think of taking decisions and thus they withdraw from taking a decision.
These are several such persons in the society who because of lack of self confidence, fear psychosis and some sort of personality maladjustment fail to take a decision correctly or cannot take a decision at all. Those persons who are easy goers and do not like to take a risk also are slow decision makers or are indecisive in nature.
Unfortunately, logical, reasonable and utilitarian decision making which can lead the person, group or organisation are not commonly observed. Though man is a rational organism, his thoughts and reasoning are coloured by emotion and sentiments, personal biases, prejudices and subjectivism.
The head does not always rule the heart, rather quite often the heart rules the head in decision making which is not unrare. There are also over simplification of facts due to perceptual distoration like seeing the facts not as they are, but as we are.
This may occur particularly when the issues are complex and complicated, subjective and emotional. Sometimes the decision maker may refuse to make a decision altogether without making an effort to choose on the basis of a rational consideration of the alternatives.
As earlier mentioned, when the alternatives are two or three, it is easy to give a decision. But when the alternatives are more, and all look alike the process of decision making becomes very complex due to confusion and the job becomes very tough.
In such a situation it will be wise to eliminate some alternatives as soon as possible and then select between the limited alternatives on the basis of various factors and characteristics. Effective occupational adjustment involves correct and timely decision making.
Also decision making is a major managerial requirement. The head of an office or organisation, an executive, a leader or a supervisor must have decision making ability. The leader of various political groups should also have the quality to take proper decision at proper time. The administrative and business tycoons have to take decisions on matters and issues relating to national and public interest.
If they linger without taking decisions it leads to disaster. Indecisive heads are useless as they cannot give proper direction and guidance to the subordinates and lower level employees leading to utter mess in administration and management in social and group life. They prove complete failures as group leaders. For upward mobility in any situation, decision making process is of vital importance.
The person sitting in the chair of decision making should not be influenced by fear and favour. The decision should be reasoned and transparent after careful and meticulous analysis of all advantages, disadvantages, rules and regulations. In a society in any organisation or group, be it a family, a club, a business organisation, a government and non-government office, a public and private sector undertaking, a group, a crowd, decision making is an important duty of the highest authority.
A decision can be made alone or in consultation with the other members of the organisation. Leaders of any social, political, economic or administrative organisations have to take hundreds and thousands of decision daily. The decisions should never-the-less be reality oriented. Unrealistic and non- implementive decisions are useless and do not serve any purpose. Rather they induce confusions and frustrations. Usually flexible and dynamic personalities are good decision makers.
How people make decisions? What are the procedures of decision making ‘? Social psychologists are convinced that the key to an understanding of how people actually make decisions lies in the description of decision making process itself. This is called the ‘Descriptive approach and not by the normative approach which analyses how rational man should go about making a decision.
Stages in Decision Making:
The first stage of decision making process starts from the point at which deliberation begins. In this stage different aspects of the problem and the pros and cons of the possible alternatives are examined in proper prospective.
2. Act of making a choice:
While making a choice between different alternative, certain alternatives which do not have much relevance may be omitted from the list of possible alternatives, so that it becomes easy to take a decision from a few alternative.
3. Final choice:
After examining all aspects, finally a decision is arrived at, which is considered right, helpful, practicable and profitable in the present situation.
4. Post decision period:
The post decision period includes the psychological consequences of making a choice, the relationship between decision making and the major sources of conflict and modes of conflict resolution at each stage of the decision sequence.
Thus, the stages of decision making process can be broadly divided into pre-decision process and post decision process.
1. Pre-Decision Process:
The sequence of pre-decision process starts when the person faces with a need and he is required to make a decision sooner or later. This might occur as a consequence of new information which needs a change or modification in the present course of action.
For example, a lady officer is required to take leave on a particular day from office for the Sradha ceremony of her father-in-law, but on the same day she has to attend an urgent meeting in the Secretariat, a student wants to view a rare picture but he has examination next morning.
The person concerned has to choose either of the one by taking a decision. An Officer is superseded by the subordinate because of reservation policy or the higher authority refuses to raise the salary, and under such circumstances a decision has to be taken whether to resign or continue in the job. In this manner everyday one faces several alternatives to solve a problem or reach the goal for which a fair decision is to be taken.
The decision making sequence sometimes starts with the recognition that a choice must be made between a variety of alternatives available for the fulfilment of a particular need. On some occassions the decisions are to be immediate and delay may cause danger. On the other occassions a decision may wait for half a day or one day. Long delayed decision makers prove to be poor leaders and poor administrators.
They become utter failures in any sphere of life whether personal, familial, social or official. Sometimes they have to take decisions with the falling of an eye lead particularly in mob situations and situations warranting immediate redressal. Once this author in the capacity of Director, Elementary Education. Orissa, after louring an education dist. was taking rest in the local guest house.
After an hour of rest when she was just proceeding to the car for her return journey about 200 Primary School teachers, Sikhya Karmis and nonformal educators rushed towards the car from the backside where they were hiding. Within five seconds this author had to take a decision whether to run away with the car or to face them and she took the decision in three seconds.
She asked the driver to halt, got down from the car on her own and tried to find out their problem and this decision proved to be very profitable and timely. After discussion it was noted that the Dist. Inspector of Schools has not disbursed their salary for the last three months. With the assurance that the problem will be solved within a week, they not only got pacified, but also became happy.
They also got their salary within a week. Thousands of examples of this type can be given from the life situations where one has to take a decision at once. When a person is first confronted with the need to make a decision he considers the advantages and disadvantages of each available alternative and then takes a decision.
The present author in the above incident thought that driving away without listening to the aggrieved teacher is negligence of duty and is definitely against her conscience since she had toured the education district with the purpose to ease their grievances also. She also decided to face the situation boldly and single handedly instead of withdrawing like a coward.
In any situation it has to be ensured that the decision must be realistic and implementable. Before taking serious decisions regarding switching from one job to another and from one political party to another one has to examine all the pros and cons of the alternatives and whether they are achievable, unachievable. Unrealistic decisions are useless and serve no practical purpose.
There may not be any difficulty in choosing between the job of a state Civil Service and Indian Civil Service. But there may be difficulty in deciding between two equally attractive job offering more or less equal opportunity.
An Indian neurosurgeon working as a fellow in USA for higher training in stereostatic neurosurgery when gets an offer in a N.R.I, hospital in India of Rs. 2 lakhs salary per month he is in conflict and is not able to decide immediately whether he will continue in USA or come back to India and accept the job in the N.R.I. Hospital.
He has to take some time and make a serious thinking and make a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of both the jobs for making a final decision. In situations like this, where the other alternatives have similar or evenly balanced values, it is difficult to make a decision and there usually are signs of conflict, uncertainty and a tendency to delay making a choice as long as possible.
There is difference of opinion between social scientists about the nature of thought processes directed towards the resolution of conflicts during the predecision period. According to Festinger (1964) before making a decision the subject makes an objective appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of each alternatives and there is no tendency to ‘bias’ the alternatives by bolstering one or devaluing the other so as to make the choice easier.
The results of two studies by Davidson and Kiesler (1964) and by Jecker (1964) have been used to support the thesis that the pre decision phase is invariably objective and rational”. A careful analysis of the two experiments suggests that their results are ambiguous”. Davidson and Kiesler conducted an experiment which involved a role played 1 on imaginary decision.
In this study teen age girls had to hire one of two fictitious candidates applying for the post of vice-president of an imaginary firm. But this is hardly a situation which guaranteed to arouse deep feelings of conflict and involvement. This is the limitation of the experiment.
Another experiment of Jecker involved a real life choice between two attractive records, but the subjects were made to believe that they might receive both the records any way. The situation in this experiment provided little scope for arousal of severe decisional conflict.
Since the decision was of questionable importance in both the above experiments the results showed little evidence of subjective appraisal of alternatives before announcement of the decision.
Another point may be made, that the various decisions or alternatives are not always approached objectively. This is also not possible for a human being, who is not a machine or a computer, but there is every chance that personal life incidents, subjective feelings and personal emotional experiences, current needs and values may colour the decision making process.
It has been frequently noticed that while making important personal life decisions, there is a significant tendency to distort, evade and oversimplify, add and subtract major considerations bearing the alternative. It has been rampantly observed that also personality factors like capacity for taking risks and low tolerance for conflict influence the tendency of subjectivism while taking decisions.
Though no individual is totally free from the clutches of personal experiences to make hasty, emotional and wrong choices because of biases and prejudice, the rational basis for making any decision cannot be denied.
The decisions going to be made must be reasoned. Even when the various alternatives while making a decision are equally attractive, it is necessary and also desirable to explore them further and find out the basis for a sensible choice.
But it cannot be ruled out that situations also arise where all possible informations for making a careful decision are exhausted and nothing is left on the basis of which one can prefer one alternative over the other. In such circumstances the person is confronted with a problem which appears to him to be insoluble, but he has to take a decision may be between two bad alternative or two equally good alternatives. Here he has to use biases and subjectively wishful thinking or imagination simply because a choice has to be made.
Ordinarily, when a person is not able to make up his mind after several thinkings, he feels tensed and excited. A lot of anxiety crowds his mind. Why? Because he anticipates that if he makes a wrong or faulty choice, he may be in greater difficulty. In such a situation it is expected that the person will be objective and vigilant before making a decision.
But Janis and Mann (1968) hold that the above may not be true always and invariably. They say that the period before the decision is invariably characterized by objective, unbiased appraisals of the relative merits of the alternatives.
They further hold that under certain specific conditions predecisional bolstering occurs because the individual wants to put a quick end to the current conflict of having to choose and is not concerned about the possible negative consequences of not having thought although the decision objectively.
A person may take a biased or wrong decision:
(1) If there is no penalty for a wrong decision.
(2) If the penalty for wrong decision is remote.
(3) If there is a scope to change his decision afterwards.
(4) When all the relevant informations are available.
Although this happens with many simple, routined, day to day decisions, if may also happen with complex, important and potentially painful decisions.
From another study Mann, Jenis and Chaplin (1969) have found the evidences that “pre-decisional spreading occurs when the conflicted decision makes believes that there is no more information to be obtained that will help in making his decision.
However they hypothesized that when the individual is led to believe in the possibility of obtaining new relevant information right up to the time of the decision, there will be little to bias or bolster the alternatives. But to bolster before hearing all the information would be premature and could lead to faulty choice, they hold.
Unless there is conflict and involvement, proper decision making is not possible. As a part of a study conducted by Mann, Janis and Chaplin (1969) on the effects of anticipation of forthcoming information on pre-decisional processes”, the above authors attempted to investigate the effects of psychological stimulations on intellectual functioning.
Female students of the university of Melbournne were instructed to make a decision as to which of two unpleasant psychological stimulations i.e. taste and auditory stimulation they would prefer to suffer. To arouse conflicts and involvement among the subjects of more information group (Experiment) it was informed about the side effects of both the stimulations. The side effects are feeling of nausea, dizziness, headache, etc.
They were further given some statistical information about the number of people suffering from the side effects. The no information (gr – II) subjects were told by the experimenter that unfortunately there was no statistical information about the number of people suffering the side effects.
The more information group (gr – I) who did not expect any information bearing on the decision showed the tendency to spread the attractiveness of two stimulations prior to making a decision. On the contrary the ‘No information’ group, who were made through the instruction to expect some forthcoming information did not spread.
Thus, subjects who expected further information showed no systematic change in the ratings of the alternative while subjects who did not expect further information spreaded the attractiveness of the alternatives. This shows that anticipation of forthcoming information has definite effect on pre decisional processes.
The results of this experiment however contradicts Festinger’s conclusion that the pre-decision process is invariably characterized by no systematic reevaluation of alternatives. According to Janis and Mann (1968) when the person is in a state of conflict and believes that he will be committed to the chosen alternative, this induces careful and objective evaluation of the alternatives.
On the other hand, when he is led to believe that his choice will not be final and binding and that it is possible to reverse the decision at no great cost, a hasty and superficial appraisal of the alternatives will occur”. Thus before a decision is made, the objective, unbiased, or subjective bias examination of alternatives will depend upon the presence or absence of possibility of further information or the prospect of a binding commitment.
The Act of Decision:
This is middle or intermediate stage of decision making process. According to Janis (1959) “A decision is any verbal overt action which is socially defined as a commitment to carry out a specified task or to adhere to a particular course of action in the future. When a choice is made among several alternatives and a person is committed to such choice, it becomes a decision. After scanning and examining each alternative in terms of its advantages and disadvantages in the pre decision process, “a decision is taken finally. This is known as the “act of decision”.
This process is followed in rational decision making. A rational decision making follows several rules. In rational and utilitarian decision maximum net gain is given priority over others. For minimization of loss also utilitarian decisions prove effective. In other circumstances where potential alternatives seem equally attractive in the initial stage, a good enough formula may be adopted as viewed by Simon (1957). Sometimes decisions are taken in a trial and error fashion.
In other cases, decisions are incremental in nature i.e. the end product of a number of small decisions which progressively lead the person into choosing a particular alternative. Sometimes a decision is pressed or imposed on a person. The higher authorities sometimes impose decisions on a person or a group of persons. This is true particularly in recruitments and appointments etc.
Even though there is outside pressure to take a particular decision, still there may be conflict and various “thought evasion strategies may occur. In such a situation he may not necessarily accept the decision imposed, but “might induce an authority figure to decide on his behalf, or rely on coin tossing figure to decide on his behalf, or rely on coin tossing and other chance devices for making a choice or let the course of events lead naturally to a solution”.
Some people when are unable to take a decision between alternatives because of conflicting factors take the advice by tossing a coin or they may take the advice of an expert. Sometimes there may also be people who by nature, are unable to choose from the alternatives, but after the advice of the expert or as a foresight, they may take a decision.
Any decision making process requires some amount of risk. Sometimes impulsive decisions are taken without proper screening and scanning of the pros and cons of the various alternatives. Some people who resist tension and cannot tolerate it, also take quick and hasty decisions.
2. Post-Decision Processes:
Festigner (1957) has observed several inconsistencies which motivate the individual to change his ideas and belief relating to the world in which he grows. One of these sources of inconsistency is post decision dissonance. It is a state of tension which occurs because the selected alternative has some negative features while the rejected alternative has some positive feature.
Suppose a person has bought a diesel car, after examining the pros and cons of several other alternative cars of the similar cost. But after buying the car he found out certain disadvantages or defects which he could not visualise earlier. To resolve this state of discomfort, tension or dissonance, he has to take a decision immediately.
He may return the car, may sale the car to a friend or may exchange it for another car of his choice. This can reduce his dissonance. Mass Media like TV, Radio, news paper and various advertisements also help enormously in taking a decision. The aim of the ad agencies is to turn potentially dessonant consumers into satisfied consumers” loyal to the brand.
The post decision process is often strengthened by the ad agencies or competent salesman may who try to increase the satisfaction of the customer by providing further positive information about the purchased article and discussing the liberal after sales service. The process of reevaluation of the decision during the post decision period is facilitated by selective exposure to information concerning the alternatives.
It is also observed that in case of difficult and complex choices post decisional dissonance occurs more than when the choice is simple and of routine nature. Mann (1969) has given an example of an interview conducted by knox and Inkster (1968) wherein “punters were interviewed at two race tracks in British Columbia before and after they placed two dollar at the sellers window, punters who were waiting to make their bets, maintained that their horse had a fair chance of winning.
Soon after placing the bet they expressed greater confidence in their choice and estimated at that time that their horse had a good chance of winning. Increasing the chance of the chosen horse in a race functions to reduce the inevitable feelings of dissonance experienced in the un-comfortable moments before the race begins.
Post-decision dissonance is also found among voters. In India during the 1998 Lok Sabha Election, some media agencies took the prepoll and post poll of exit poll view of the voters following the same procedure of an election booth.
They took the decision of some of the voters before entering the polling booth and also the decision of some other voters after casting their votes. The post voting decision gave a more reliable result than the prevoting decision. The increase in optimism from before to after voting can be interpreted among other things, an attempt to reduce post voting dissonance.
Post-decisional discomfort or dissonance may arise when the individual is criticised for his decision or when he himself finds the unforeseen disadvantages and losses due to this type of selection. When he discovers the various difficulties and problems due to such a non-effective and non-beneficial decision, his dissonance and discomfort increases.
Moreover, a person who considers himself as a sound decision maker, but one fine morning finds that all his decisions have been on the wrong line, feels lowered self esteem and remorse. He looses confidence in himself. In such a case, the person may reverse his decision or break his commitment of course if there is a scope.
“Walster and Berscheid (1968) have suggested the “term psychological reactance” as a source of post decisional dissonance. Reactance occurs in decision making when an alternative is eliminated or given up. It is experienced as a feeling of regret which stems from the realization that the choice of one alternative makes all the unchoosen alternatives no longer possible. Reactance manifests itself in part as an increase in attractiveness of the no longer available alternatives”.
Steps for Appropriate Decision Making:
Calkins (1959) is of view that an administrator has to follow the following five steps for an appropriate decision making:
1. Identification and undertaking of the problem.
2. Defining and clarifying goals.
3. Alternative goals.
4. Analysing the anticipated consequences of each alternative.
5. Selecting a course of action.
The most desirable and effective alternative leading to the goal is to be selected in the final step of decision making process. But to make the decision making effective and goal oriented, one has to follow 1 to 4 analytical stages bit by bit and then follow the last step. However, there may be flexibility in following the step depending upon the need of the hour and circumstances.
Schmidt (1958) holds that each and every decision involves framing a hypothesis about the future on the part of the decision maker i.e. what is being expected in the future. For instance, whether the value of a particular share will rise in the near future or not. Acceptance or rejection of the hypothesis will depend upon the actual market performance of the stock in future.
After the hypothesis is formulated a decision is to be made by the boss or the head of the office about the future course of action. Schmidt has suggested four different kinds of executive decision situations and their consequences such as Delays, Stays, Delight and Fright (1) After correctly guessing the future occurrences, when the executive decides not to take any action, he may delay the decision by mentioning “Please wait”. “Discuss” “please speak”, put after seven days etc. Such a decision leads to unnecessary delay. (2) When the executive has wrongly guessed what is going to happen in future, and stays the operation of the decision, his hypothesis becomes false. If he would have acted on the hypothesis, he would have been wrong.
Mager (1964) has suggested a second pchemetical model for the decision process. Here there are various alternative courses of action just like the branches of a tree. There may also be only two alternatives from which the executive has to choose one.
In such a situation all other factors influencing the decision like role of the competitors in the market, share price etc. are to be examined in great length before taking a decision. Manager advocated that for making sound decisions, all possible outcomes of different factors are to be considered before taking a final decision.