Decisions, decisions

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William Shakesbeer

Ok, I don’t believe there is someone around here who doesn’t already “know” that the leadership style one should embrace should be determined by the situation, you are in. Say, in some situations a manager decides what to do next himself, and instructs his subordinates what to do step-by-step. In some situations, you have to outline what kind of a solution do you need, let your team to discuss solutions and accept what they designed. Sometimes (my favorite) you just don’t care: they’ll do it better without you 😉 Ahhh, possibilities, possibilities.

The question is: “what to do in an exact situation?”. Should I be a “deciderer”, or just “don’tcarer”? I, to be honest, usually just do whatever seems to be right. Ok, I believe that I do what is right (don’t you?) and select the course of action properly, but there is still a hope within me that management is a science, not magic (hocus pocus, I wish my team to be happy and productive one, BIG salary for everyone… Ok, I should stop now).

Well, looking for such a model, I came across some stuff called Vroom-Yetton decision model (sometimes Vroom-Yetton-Jago). You may read about it on Wikipedia, or just google it. In short, there is a model, with questions you have to answer about your task at hand. Like “should the task be completed with high technical quality?” or “is conflict among subordinates over preferred solutions likely?”.

Naturally, you just get the task, ask the questions (see the graphic representation of the model to track the solution):

1) How important is the technical quality of the decision? – Not very (that’s “low” for us);

2) How important is subordinate commitment to the decision? – Not very (“low” again);

3) Voila – here you are at the AI – autocratic node of the model: Leader solves the problem along using information that is readily available to they.

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Fig.1: Vroom-Yetton model (got it from http://faculty.css.edu/dswenson/web/LEAD/vroom-yetton.html)

Quite easy, and, I must say, impressive solution to our problem, isn’t it? Ok… Probably. I see here a couple of problems:

1) There are questions, some people cannot answer “no” to. Say, the first one: “Is there a quality requirement?”. Are you kidding me? What do you mean “there could be a situation, when the quality isn’t a must”???!!! There are more perfectionists in the world, than I can imagine!

2) I’m not sure, I see where to get correct answers to all this questions. No, really, how do you know that your decision, if taken exclusively by you, will be accepted by all your subordinates. Yeah, I know all this “good manager must know their people” mantra, but let’s be honest: people are people, they will surprise you from time to time. And all other questions are the subject to the same fault: you never can be sure that you know the right answer.

So, that seems to be a great tool to model your decision-making style, if we don’t think about those two flaws. Unless, of course, there is an explanation and methodology in the works of Victor Vroom. Unfortunately, I failed to find a place to buy the books by this scientist in a digital format, so if you know the place, please let me know and I’ll follow up.

And just for quick reference to use with the figure above, here are the questions and resulting decision-taking models:

Questions:

1) Quality Requirement (QR): How important is the technical quality of the decision?

2) Commitment Requirement (CR): How important is subordinate commitment to the decision?

3) Leader’s Information (LI): Do you (the leader) have sufficient information to make a high quality decision on your own?

4) Problem Structure (ST): Is the problem well structured (e.g., defined, clear, organized, lend itself to solution, time limited, etc.)?

5) Commitment Probability (CP): If you were to make the decision by yourself, is it reasonably certain that your subordinates would be committed to the decision?

6) Goal Congruence (GC): Do subordinates share the organizational goals to be attained in solving the problem?

7) Subordinate conflict (CO): Is conflict among subordinates over preferred solutions likely?

8) Subordinate information (SI): Do subordinates have sufficient information to make a high quality decision?

Models:

Decision Making Style

Description

Autocratic l (Al)

Leader solves the problem along using information that is readily available to him/her

Autocratic ll (All)

Leader obtains additional information from group members, then makes decision alone. Group members may or may not be informed.

Consultative l (Cl)

Leader shares problem with group members individually, and asks for information and evaluation. Group members do not meet collectively, and leader makes decision alone.

Consultative ll (Cll)

Leader shares problem with group members collectively, but makes decision alone

Group ll (Gll)

Leader meets with group to discuss situation. Leader focuses and directs discussion, but does not impose will. Group makes final decision.

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