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Political Science Essay

Public administration is indispensable of decision making because decision making very crucial in the sustenance of organisations. There are a number of decision making models .These include rational comprehensive model, satisficing model, incremental model and mixed scanning model. All of them have their assumptions, strengths and weaknesses to be discussed below. None of these models is the best but it depends on the nature of the problem at hand. However, one may argue that rational comprehensive model appears to be the best model among others notwithstanding the fact that it has some limitations. Therefore decision making is very crucial in public administration, as it provides solutions to emanating societal problems. BODY

Definition of key terms
According to Barron`s Accounting Dictionary, decision making is a purposeful selection from among a set of alternatives in the light of a given objective. According to Web Definitions it is a cognitive process of reaching a decision. To Simon decision making is synonymous with management. He calls it the heart of the organisation. In general decision making is an act of choosing between two or more courses of action. RATIONAL COMPEHENSIVE DECISION MAKING MODEL

Carley cited in McGrew et al (1982:49) believes that rationality has a common core meaning. That is “distinction between ends or and goals and means to achieve those goals…some rules for evaluating the cost and benefits of each alternative means so as to select the optimum solution to the decision problem in a way which would…,be constructed and examined by analysts”. Thus to be rational is to be systematic, logical, intelligent and reasoning. It assumes that decision makers are rational beings who are driven by the need to maximise .It also assumes that one has to be comprehensive in order to be rationality .It assumes that decision makers have predictive capabilities to foresee accurately the consequences of alternative decisions. It also assumes that decision makers have higher propensity to access of information and resources. Thus the rational model has confidence in the decision makers since they are assumed to be rational. Stages involved in rational decision
making process

Barber (1983:35)”rational comprehensive decision making approach deals with a programme of logical and sequential steps”. The first step is to identify a problem and all values related to the problem. This is what Hebert Simon call intelligent activity. For example the notion of occupational hazards, deaths and injuries at work place. The second objective is setting of goals and objectives to solve the problem. In this situation objectives might be creation of healthful environment, reduction of deaths and injuries. The third stage is listing all possible alternatives for achieving set goals. This is what Simon calls the design stage. The fourth stage is to list costs and possible consequences. In relation with the given example alternatives may be penalising organisations which are not attaining good health. This may be effective because organisations may comply. However, it may be burdensome on the part of the employer. It may lead to erosion of capital base of the organisation and that has the likely hood of hindering production. Awards to organisations which met the required health are another alternative. This may motivate organizations to have high safety standards. However, this may lead some organizations like National Social Security Association (NSSA) to lose. Another alternative is enhancement of inspectors which may be effective. However, it may be ineffective since inspectors may receive bribes. The last stage is to select the best or optimal option. This is what Simon calls choice activity. In this case the best option may be the notion of penal codes. Therefore, it is crucial for a decision maker to follow all the above stages as to complete the process of rational decision making. Strengths and significance

It emphasizes the need to think critically through problems. It emphasises on the consequences of national decision making. It also emphasises values of fiscal planning and research. Hence rational model is very significant in providing solutions to encountered problems. Weaknesses

Hebert Simon was aware of the limitations of rational model and he developed the idea of bounded rationality. He pointed out those human beings lacks cognitive to optimize. It is expensive and time consuming because of
rigorous research and analysis. Decision makers are not always able to comprehend all possible information neither are they able to identify all applicable criteria, all alternatives and their possible consequences. There is no certainty about the future. The model invests in man`s predictive powers hence it remains a utopian. Decision makers are tempted to maximize personal goals than societal goals .For example, it is alleged that the land reform programme benefited the top state officials than the majority. It assumes that agreement can be reached yet reality in urban governance is that there are difficulties on interpersonal social goals. Problems cannot be dealt with in isolation, as the model assumes, because problems are always interconnected. Therefore rational model have its own constraints which then give birth to other models. SATISFICING DECISION MAKING MODEL

Following the observed problems with rational model Simon (1947) proposed his own model called the satisficing model. According to Online Dictionary “satisficing is a decision making strategy that aims for satisficing results rather than optimal solution “This is because optimal solution may necessitate needless expenditure, energy and resources. In reality optimizing model is unrealistic. Realistic model takes into account bounded rationality. When faced with problems, decision makers try to reduce the problem to the level that it can be readily understood but acting within the confines of bounded rationality. Decision makers do not struggle to find the best but stop when they find the first acceptable solution. A simple example is as follows. A task is to sew a patch into a pair of jeans which requires a four inch long with a three millimeter eye. This needle is hidden in a haystack along with thousand other needles varying from size .Satisficing model claims that the first needle to sew the patch is the one that should be used. The criteria are far from being exhaustive. In the process decision makers may resort to past solutions or those that have been tried elsewhere. Stages are similar with those of rational model. Therefore, satisficing model emphasizes on satisfying decisions rather than optimal ones. Strengths

The theory is based on human capabilities hence it is more realistic than theoretical. The model is faster since there is no in depth study. When
there is unlimited amount of information available, the model can be beneficial because it helps the decision maker to effectively and efficiently reach a conclusion. Also it is manageable. It is practical and sensitive to difficulties since it is based on satisficing.This raise the notion of s realistic administrative who is conditioned by organisational culture. Probably that’s why satisficing model is also called administrative model. An organisational man complies with the established rules and regulations and follows the established course of action. Thus man is intentionally rationalized and not naturally rational. Therefore, satisficing model is significant in decision making especially in that it overcomes some of the weaknesses of rational model. Demerits

This model can be detrimental when used in the wrong way. For example when considering a medical issue such as diagnosis, it is not the best strategy to use. Another example is when the government is making fundamental decisions like policies concerning declaration of wars; it is not the best method to apply. Thus the model is not best where best decisions need to be made.

Following the observed shortcomings of rational model Lindblom severely criticized the rational model. In its place he substituted it with incremental model. It assumes that the status quo is the basic frame of reference, the focus is only short, only a narrow range of alternatives are considered. Decisions occur through an incremental process of successive limited comparisons. The crucial activities, problems, issues are most important and measurement of costs and benefits occurs informally. In this model the best decision is that which satisfies the demands of immediate situation. Examples include constitutional amendments, budgetary process, resource allocation and distribution. Therefore, incremental model is significant in decision making where emphasis is put on the preservation of status quo. Stages involved

The model involves four stages which follow. The first stage is defining goal
or objective. In incrementalism, goals and alternatives occur simultaneously. It requires a small set of alternatives to reduce complexity in decision making process. In stage two decision makers only consider a limited number of consequences for each alternative. At stage three problems confronting the decision maker are continually redefined. At stage four an agreement is reached on at least one good solution even if it is not the best possible solution. An example is as follows, status quo Operation“Murambatsvina” which was aimed at cleaning the nation of Zimbabwe in 2005.However, it left some people homeless. The new objective may be to provide shelter for these homeless people. The new policy made on incremental bases is Operation “Garikai” which aimed at building homes for people. Unfortunately it is alleged that this policy was ineffective to some extent since only few people were served under this service because of corruption. Therefore the model has few stages to be followed.

The model is realistic, practical and politically expedient since it is easy to agree on marginal modifications. The model seeks to avoid problems associated with rational model. Thus Lindblom (1947) describes his model as “The Science of Muddling through”. This model is the most feasible approach to systematic decision making when issues are complex, uncertain and riddled with conflict. It reduces conflicts which are normally associated with radical fundamental decisions. It acknowledges the constraints within which practical decision making takes place. For example it acknowledges that decision makers especially in the government do not usually have time, intelligence, capacity and the will to indulge in rational decision making on a day to day basis. It saves time and resources and acknowledges that problems are not distinct from each other hence interlinked. Hence incremental model is an effective and essential in decision making because of the above strengths.

It is being accused of being conservative hence it is an obstacle to innovation. Booth(1978) cited in McGrew(1982:119) for instance, has described these factors in the machinery of local government in Britain
which have inhabited the introduction of alternatives to residential use of strong, “rational ” services against extensive supply of residential provision. Thus the model is incompatible in the making of fundamental decisions. It is not compatible in large scale policy. The model only works in stable conditions. It is accused of promoting short sightedness. Small incremental steps may lead to undesirable consequences. It is also criticise of lack of direction because of the notion of muddling through. Accordingly, incremental model also have its own weaknesses just like other models.

This model is associated with Amitai Etzioni in 1976.The model takes rational approach and smaller set of decisions to be made incrementally. Thus the application of the model depends on the prevailing situation. The model emphasises scanning of a number of possibilities from which is generated selection of alternatives for action. It is more rational in practice to be selective and systematic about a limited number of feasible options and rationally to examine all the choices, Lee et al (1982:53).For instance, situations like declaration of wars calls for fundamental decisions. Therefore, mixed scanning is also a very significant model of decision making. Strengths

It is developed as an adaptive strategy and practical approach to complex and uncertain situations. It reduces the unrealistic aspects of rationalism by limiting the details required in fundamental decisions. Contextualising rationalism helps to overcome the conservative slant of increamentalism by exploring long run alternatives. Hence, “each of the two elements in mixed scanning helps to reduce shortcomings of the other ,between incrementalism and rationalism” as noted by Etzioni (1969:390) cited in McGrew et al (1982:120).It permits taking advantage of both rational and incremental approaches in different situations. It permits adjustments of rapidly changing environment such as global concern namely security, poverty and diseases by providing flexibility necessary to adapt decision making to specific circumstance. It considers the capacity of decision maker. Ijeoma (2010:20) states that it is best in adverse cultural, political and
religious beliefs as well as the economic and developmental inequalities that exist between developed and undeveloped countries. Therefore, one can note that mixed scanning model is essential and very beneficial since it is a combination of two models. Weaknesses

It is not clear if the unrealistic and conservative shortcomings would actually be avoided. Specification of details is omitted so that an overview is feasible Therefore this approach seems to have few limitations as compared to other models. CONCLUSION

In a nutshell, there are various approaches of decision making which can be applied in different situations. These include rational, satisficing, incremental and mixed scanning. Each model has its assumptions, strengths and weaknesses. None of these is the best, each model is best when applied in a right and appropriate situation. Thus the choice of approach to be used depends on the situation on the ground. It is crucial for decision makers to have the knowledge of where and when any of these models can be applied. Failure to do so may result in undesirable consequences. However, although these models are equally important, one may subjectively argue that rational comprehensive model is the best of them all because of its characteristics.




Barber ,M.P.1983. Public Administration.3rd edition. Britain: Macdonald and Evans Barons Accounting Dictionary.
Ijeoma,E.O.2010.Africa`s New Public Policy: Imperatives for Globalisation and the National building in Nigeria. South Africa: Africa Institute of South Afric Lee,K.Mills,A.1982.Policy-Making and Planning in Health Sector. Britan: Croom Helm Ltd. McGrew ,A .G .Wilson ,M.J.1982.Decision Making: Approaches and Analysis. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Online Dictionary

Web Definitions.Decision Making.Retrieved from
http://www.answers.com/topic/decision making.accessed on 02/o4/13

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