Decision-making & Managing Conflict

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Models of Decision-making

As a leader, you'll frequently be required to make decisions which can have significant impacts on your organisation and team. Therefore, you should have a good understanding of the different models of decision making and what's involved in making a good decision.

The first thing you should be aware of is the importance of critical thinking and its direct impact on effective decision making. Critical thinking can be defined as raising what is subconscious in a person's reasoning to the level of conscious recognition. Good leaders are usually critical thinkers as they understand the mechanics of reasoning and are able to use this to manage the unconscious influences that contribute and affect their decision-making process.

Generally, critical thinkers:

  • Continually question their own and other people's assumptions, reasons, motivations, and outlook
  • Do not focus on contradicting others when questioning but focus on their reasoning and perspective
  • Answer questions by asking more questions

Unfortunately, critical thinking does not come naturally to most people. Like everything else, it is a skill you must continually develop and refine. As a leader, critical thinking can prevent your subconscious emotions and reasoning from clouding your judgement and thus allow you to make better overall decisions.

There are two basic models used to describe the decision making process; the rational model and Simon's normative model.Models of Decision-making

The rational model proposes that people follow a rational, four step sequence when making decisions. The four steps are:

  • Indentifying the problem
  • Generating solutions
  • Selecting a solution
  • Implementing and evaluating the solution

Some of the limitations not considered in this model are issues such as not having enough information relevant to the problem and also  the fact that problems can change in a short period of time.

The normative model of decision making takes into account the fact that leaders are bound by certain constraints when making decisions. These constraints include personal and environmental factors that reduce rationality, such as time, complexity, uncertainty and resources.

The normative model suggests that decision making is characterised by;

  • Limited information processing - there is a limit to how much information a person can manage.
  • Judgemental heuristics - shortcuts are used to simplify decision making.
  • Satisficing - choosing solutions that meet minimum requirements and are "good enough."[1]

A leader will only be able to manage a certain amount of information at any one time, so they make judgements based on their previous experiences wherever possible to speed up the decision making process. Often choosing a solution that is "good enough", is considered effective when there are multiple solutions that will produce similar outcomes.

Most people use variations of these theoretical models to make decisions in their day to day lives. Developing your understanding of the decision making process can help you become a better and more effective leader.


[1] Organisational Behaviour, Angelo Kinicki, 2008