“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions” (Jim Rohn). In the corporate world, leaders are faced with decisions that can make or break the organizations they represent. Several methods, consensus, brainstorming, systematic, and democratic are used in the decision making process. This paper will investigate the decision-making processes most prevalent in each team member’s organization, compare and contrast them, and will show the most favorable aspect of each style.
The name of my company is Envicor. Envicor is a plastics molding company that manufactures anything that can be made of plastic. This author was recently hired as the national sales manager to oversee Envicor’s newest product line, sporting goods equipment. This author’s job is to promote the sale of portable pitching mounds to a broad range of customers. When it comes to decision making, Envicor uses the consensus method.
Consensus is a process using group decision making. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, the company is not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust.
Consensus takes more time, as many resources are investigated before a decision is made. Team members become committed to the decision through consensus. The consensus method gives everyone experience with new processes of interaction and conflict resolution. For consensus to be a positive experience, the group should have 1) common values, 2) some skill in group process and conflict resolution, or a commitment to let these be facilitated,3) commitment and responsibility to the group by its members, and 4) sufficient time for everyone to participate in the process” (C.D.T. 2009).
The goal of Envicor is to expand our product line to as many customers as possible. After making contact with a catalog company, a meeting is called in order to discuss the pros and cons of including our product in the catalog. In the meetings, each person gets a chance to give his or her opinion. Once everyone has spoken, a decision is made. By using the consensus method, the group is able to come together and make a decision based on each person’s opinion.
Advantages and disadvantages exist when using the consensus method of decision making.. Some examples are:Strengths:•Encourages cooperation instead of competition•Garners trust and confidence; everyone is involved in the final decision•Everyone agrees to the final decision no matter whether a majority, minority, or lone voiceWeaknesses•Lack of experience may lead to inefficient use of the method•Lack of control in meetings, conversation goes off topic•No “ownership” when decision is not correct or no consensus made (Notes on Consensus-Decision Making).
Consensus seems to work well for smaller companies because it allows them to actually talk out their decisions and come together. Bigger companies might struggle with this type of decision making process because there might be too many employees and it could waste a lot of time.
In the brainstorming model, all employees use free thinking to create ideas that will later be used as part of the project’s process. Brainstorming is useful because it allows all employees, some with extensive experience, to give their input. All members’ contributions allow them to “own” their role within the group and therefore, believe they have been a larger part of greater good.
Like other decision making processes, brainstorming has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that all decisions are reached by consensus of the entire group. The larger the group is in a brainstorming session, the better the results will be. Everyone works from his or her strengths, weaknesses, experience, and education to find the best results for the project.
Next, by making the decision a group project, everyone has a chance to participate in the decision making process. They are able to voice their objections and give alternative suggestions. This open forum allows ideas to flow freely, and sound decisions are made quickly.
A disadvantage of brainstorming is similar to one of its advantages. With more than two or three employees making a decision, the result can become a point of contention and a fight for power within the group. The more people involved in the process, the greater the propensity for debate, creating the possibility of a stalemate.
Another disadvantage of brainstorming is something called group think. This occurs when one member of a group makes a statement, and the others follow along. Nothing is accomplished because only one person is making the decision with no alternate suggestions. An open dialogue does not exist; therefore, solutions to problems are not properly explored.
SystematicThe systematic approach to decision-making is rational and analytical. (Concise Handbook of Management) This approach employs existing data, and the goal of the decision is the focus of the steps taken to put the decision together. This author’s organization uses the systematic approach for making most decisions. A strength of using the systematic approach is that information used to reach the final decision is based on factual data. The goal has been clearly identified; the objective(s) have been defined; the impact of not addressing the issue has been established. A weakness of systematic decision making, an example of which will be described in the following paragraphs, is that the decision can become stalled in the process. Additionally, regardless of how much research is done, if all principal stakeholders are not engaged in the process, a negative outcome is possible.
Several years ago this author’s company developed a product that was designed to align with current imaging procedures. The equipment is a dual-head injector for use in CT scan. The purpose of the dual-head is to provide Radiologists with the capability of using not only contrast media for the CT exams, but also saline. Benefits of having the saline option developed as the clinical team became more familiar with the system, but initially the service team was concerned about damage occurring to the injector head if a saline syringe was not used.
At that time, without consulting other stakeholders, the service and engineering teams went to work on a solution that would prevent this issue.Several years later, as the clinical team was successfully promoting saline usage, the engineering department began shipping a cap for the saline side of the injector. Yes, the issue had been clearly identified, the objective for the project was defined, and the impact of not addressing the issue had been determined. However, because all stakeholders in the decision were not involved, and because the process took so long, the decision and resulting action became a very expensive mistake.
In this participative form of the decision making process the superior(s) gives complete ownership of the decision to the subordinates (Sager 1999). The democratic decision making process allows for the employees (stakeholders) to have ownership of the decisions that are made. The majority vote wins, which can lead to fast and effective decisions concerning the stakeholders. In this decision making process the adage regarding having strength in numbers reigns true.
A drawback to the democratic process can be that no one person takes responsibility for the decision if something goes wrong. It may be hard to pinpoint how the decision came to such a conclusion if it does not work out for the benefit for the stakeholders. In using the example of the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act (HIPPA) of 1996, a vote for change by a group of individuals affected by the way health records were handled was applauded, then when implemented, the act became more a hindrance than a solution to a problem.
In the vast health systems used there was a need to implement a privacy feature to protect patients’ information, so the HIPPA regulations were signed into law in 1996. HIPPA was implemented by a democratic decision making process and became popular with health organizations such as Medicare and well known health insurance companies. Later HIPPA’s biggest fans became its biggest objectors because the law made it impossible for anyone to get health information on the patient, including the parent(s) or guardians of minor children and the elderly, unless there was a form signed by the patient, the legal guardian, or POA. HIPPA soon became more frustrating than helpful, and the majority who voted for its implementation became the majority opposing it. So in implementing the democratic decision making process for the good of the people to whom the power is given, it must be made known that “with great power comes great responsibility (Uncle Ben, Spider Man Pt1).
Contrast and ComparisonProblems and issues are generally inevitable when people are working together. Each individual decision making process can allow for better management of those situations for building a better organization. This does not mean there will be an absence of issues, but whether or not the team resolves the problem effectively. Each decision making process described above demonstrates to the reader the importance of adhering to a process that will work for each organization. The consensus method shows how the power of agreement can lead to a good decision. However, this method can be time consuming and teamwork plays a major role.
Brainstorming will allow for creativity and open ideas, but can also cause conflicts and debates among the group members due to so many independent ideas being presented. In the systematic approach to decision making organization is critical. This process bases decisions on factual information. The systematic process can be costly if all members are not involved in the final decision. Democratic decisions are made based on majority input. The stakeholders are in total control of the decision making process. Speedy and effective decisions can be made; however, problems can occur because not everyone who can vote will vote. Then if a decision has a negative impact on the group it can be hard to identify the owner of the problem.
The authors of this paper have investigated four types of decision making, consensus, brainstorming, systematic, and democratic. Advantages and disadvantages of each type have been presented, and finally, all were compared and contrasted with each other.
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Ch 25 pp.337-345.
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