The act of making decisions was highly emphasised throughout this semester. It became a prominent focus because I was required to make new decisions every week for the Mike’s Bikes simulation. Because of this regularity, I found myself constantly questioning whether my decisions were the right ones, and what I could be doing differently in order to make improvements. This journal will address decision making as a problem, reflect on why it has been an issue for me, and draw on literature to help clarify why this is so and to offer possible solutions. At the same time, I will also reflect on how my decision making process has changed over the duration of the semester as a result, and what this means for the future and working within an organisational setting.
The Problem with Decision Making
The issue I had difficulty with throughout the duration of the Mike’s Bikes simulation, and a problem that will continue to arise regardless of where I am working and what I am doing, is being comfortable with my decisions, knowing what decisions are the right ones to make and, more importantly, knowing this before it is too late. Additionally, I have struggled with being confident in my decisions and making them without the approval of the rest of my team.
Decision making has arisen as an issue for me because of its uncertainty. In my week seven journal, I began a deeper reflection on why this uncertainty was so problematic (Thompson, 2013a). Because I like things to be certain, and the markets within Mike’s Bikes are anything but predictable, I was caught in a less than desirable situation. However, working through this was important as learning to deal with uncertainty will prove a fundamental skill to have for the rest of my life. In dynamic contexts, one has to understand how to best handle decisions in constantly changing situations in order to be successful. Shahi, Khan and Iqbal (2012) support the importance of this idea, and my difficulty with it, by recognising that making suitable decisions is one of the most difficult parts of working within an organisation.
During the Mike’s Bikes simulation I found decision making a problem because I did not want to be the cause of unfavorable results. This is mainly due to my desire to be right, especially when there are consequences for getting a bad outcome, as I want the whole team to do well and I do not want to let them down. Due to this, my problem is not only knowing what I should do but also includes the consequences of my decision making. Even when I use proven formulae to support a decision, I am never 100 per cent confident in it because of my inability to predict what impact external factors will have on the decision, and therefore I usually seek the approval of other team members before inputting final choices. For example, I considered capacity limits when determining how many bikes we should be producing for a rollover, and then getting the team to check over this and give their approval or make any necessary changes. If this agreement did not take place and the results turned out badly, then I would feel solely responsible for what had happened.
A Journey of Decision Making Approaches
The way I make decisions, and my view towards them, has constantly evolved throughout the semester as I have become more aware of the impacts related to decision making and learnt to better deal with the issues I experience surrounding it (see Figure One). Spreier, Fontaine and Malloy (2006) highlight how ideas exist in fluid states and that they are therefore constantly changing. This principle can be applied to the decision making process and is present due to my constant changes in approach to how I made decisions. Part of this changing in approach was due to a number of observations within literature that addresses decision making issues and contribute solutions towards minimising or eliminating them. In the initial stages of the group simulation, because I was not very clued in on what was going on and the offline mode was no longer available, my decisions were based purely on gut instincts and intuition, making the decision making process relatively pain free and quick. For instance, when deciding how much money to invest in the development of a product, a random, large sum was often used based on what felt to be an adequate amount. Had I used a more analytical approach, this would have been more accurate and resulted in a bike with a lower prime cost. At this stage, my team’s successful performance was achieved through luck which was unsustainable in the long run.
In order to create ongoing success, I needed to change my approach to how I made decisions. Therefore, I spent time alone during the break further familiarising myself with Mike’s Bikes so that I would be better equipped to understand and make decisions (Thompson, 2013b). I looked to minimise uncertainty via the use of an excel chart to link relationships so that it was clear, for example, how much SCU was needed. This ensured I was prepared and organised and in doing so could be more confident in what I was doing (Thompson, 2013a). However, once I became aware of how connected everything was and how the simulation worked, decision making became harder because I was so conscious of the impact single decisions could have. At this stage, more than ever, I did not want to let the team down.
In journal seven (Thompson, 2013a) I used Synnott’s (2013) double loop learning to help with my decision making concerns by suggesting that the underlying assumptions to this problem should also be challenged. Up until this stage I had been changing my approach, but not my attitude towards the whole situation. In being worried about getting negative results, and in doing so letting the team down, I became restricted by my fear of failing. Because of this I became uncertain about all my decisions and required the approval of team members before finalising them. Through the use of the double loop learning concept, I began to take a multi perspective approach by thinking about how other team members would view the situation. I began to realise that they too would be experiencing similar things to me. After reflecting on how I would feel towards a team member should they make a mistake – understanding and supportive – I told myself I should not be so worried, and this proved helpful in boosting my assertiveness and being able to speak out about my own opinions. This was supported by the final group feedback I received which said I should be more confident in my decisions and stop second guessing myself because, more often than not, I make good calls.
Once my understanding of relationships between different factors increased, making decisions also took longer. As meetings got increasingly longer and we spent more time as a team making decisions, our performance declined (Thompson, 2013c). Kolb (1976) asserts that success comes from assessing not only negative actions, but positive ones as well. This showcased the importance of thinking about the way I had made decisions in the past when I was successful, and in what way I had made them when I had failed. Upon reviewing this, I attempted to cut back the time spent in group meetings and also began to integrate instinct into my analytical knowledge when making decisions. Through Kolb (1976), I discovered that while failing shows me where I have gone wrong, looking back on success is also helpful as it reminds me what I have previously done that worked. This process is vital because, as supported by Borchardt (2010), learning from experience is a good last step in the decision making process. This applies to challenges outside of this course, and within the organisational setting in particular, because it is important to continually reassess how, and what, decisions are made in order to keep up with constantly changing contexts.
Buchanan and O’Connell (2006) highlight different approaches that are taken when making decisions, including economically rational decisions, gut and instinct, intuitive skills, and analytical abilities. Looking back, my decisions were originally based on gut instinct. This changed to the use of analytical abilities and making rational decisions based on knowledge and fact. However, I cannot simply make decisions based on one approach, and through Buchanan and O’Connell I discovered that a balance between these types of decision making needed to be found. This was done by having formulae, but not relying on them exclusively, and combining this approach with instinct to help make the final decisions. In doing so, I better understood what was going on, I was more comfortable with my decisions, the length of group meetings decreased, and we started to improve.
My decision making, I have discovered, has also been highly influenced by other people, and not always for the better. My main issue with decision making has been to do with uncertainty and not being confident in myself. Contrasting this, Borchardt (2010) identifies personal overconfidence as a barrier to making effective decisions. This does not correctly align to my experiences because it is my lack of confidence which appears to be causing problems. However, upon further consideration, this can be applied to my team members. With their confidence, combined with my lack thereof, they displayed assertiveness and dominance over me and were able to use this to get decisions inputted into Mike’s Bikes that they believed to be best. I had to step up to ensure that the final decisions were not simply given to the person capable of being the most convincing and pushing for their idea. By the end I was much more firm with my opinions on decisions when I did not agree with another individual. I no longer just sat there and let the rollover happen when, as I found out later, the majority of the team, like me, was not happy with some the inputted final decisions (Thompson, 2013d). I also spent more time as an individual working on Mike’s Bikes so that I was comfortable with my decisions and was therefore able to be assertive when things did not feel right to me. This is extremely important because in an organisational context I will not be able to rely on others to carry me through.
Learning about Decision Making for the Future
Over the course of the semester I have learnt how to approach my decision making differently. So far, as indicated by my change in approaches above, I have usually tested one suggestion at a time, but alone none of them offer a complete solution. From here, the next step is to further evolve from this by combining some of my findings. Changing my underlying assumptions is a key component of this, and, after reading the feedback given to me by my team, I am aware that they too believe I should not second guess myself or be so worried because I do do a lot of work and often make valid arguments. Alongside this, analytical abilities are important, but I cannot ignore my intuition about a decision either. I now base my decisions off logic, equations, and reasoning, but also off what feels right. This is a feeling I have gradually been able to develop as my understanding of Mike’s Bikes has increased. I must also constantly reflect on past decisions, both good and bad, in order to identify when my decisions are most effective and why.
When I combine these three main approaches to decision making I feel in a much better position to move forward confidently and positively. There will always be a degree of uncertainty in decision making, but I have learnt how to best deal with it and come to grips with the realities. This discovery is relevant because the learning process has taught me how understand my own decision making better and through this how to best approach the issue when it arises in the future. Making decisions on a daily basis is a reality of working within an organisation, and in particular will prove challenging when operating in any given managerial role. This self-discovery has better equipped me to deal with these challenges and helped me to understand and be conscious of my weaknesses, therefore allowing me to discover how to best handle them.
This course highlighted decision making as a problem for me, and more specifically a lack of confidence in my decisions and knowing what decisions were the best ones to make. This was an issue because of the uncertainty surrounding decisions, potentially leading to undesirable results, which would let not only me, but my whole team down. I progressed through a number of different stages in search of a resolution to this issue. In the end it was a combination of different solutions which proved beneficial. When approaching the issue in just one way, it is rather limited and the desired effects cannot be obtained. However, when I changed my underlying assumptions of decision making and combined it with a new approach – maintaining a balance between gut instinct and an analytical method – and constant reflection and awareness of past events, I learnt how to look at decision making in a new way and increase my confidence. Learning this is invaluable as it creates an understanding of how to act and appropriately make decisions within a constantly changing organisational setting, a task I will be faced with daily in the future.
Borchardt, J. K. (2010). Overcoming barriers to effective decision-making. Contract Management, 50(6), 54-61.
Buchanan, L. & O’Connell, A. (2006). A brief history of decision making. Harvard Business Review, 84(1), 32-41.
Kolb, D. A. (1976). Management and the learning process. California Management Review, 8(3), 21-31.
Shahi, A., Khan, A., & Iqbal, J. (2012). Decision making in organizations: a review of nine years. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(3),
Spreier, S. W., Fontaine, M. H., & Malloy, R. K. (2006). Leadership run amok. Harvard Business Review, 84(6), 72-82.
Synnott, M. (2013). Reflection and double loop learning: the case of HS2. Teaching Public Administration, 31(1), 124-134.
Thompson, R. (2013a). XXXX. UoA Wiki MGMT 300. Retrieved from https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Masked
Thompson, R. (2013b). XXXX. UoA Wiki MGMT 300. Retrieved from https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Masked
Thompson, R. (2013c). XXXX. UoA Wiki MGMT 300. Retrieved from https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Masked
Thompson, R. (2013d). XXX. UoA Wiki MGMT 300. Retrieved from https://wiki.auckland.ac.nz/display/MGMT300/Masked