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French Version

Choices made today can ruin your tomorrow - aust expert advises on best practice for businesses (Daily Star)

Management series takes a look at how
different approaches to decision-making can affect a firm’s future

Decisions are always risky and one should know whether to make a decision or not, was the counsel of a US management guru on the video How to Take the Right Risks: The Manager as a Decision-Maker. “A non-decision may well be preferable to a decision in the case where a condition might take care of itself, remain stable or not endanger anyone,” said Peter Drucker.

During the Lebanese Management Association’s (LMA) fifth series of video-taped management lessons at its headquarters in Beirut Wednesday, the dean of the Business School at the American University of Science and Technology, Hussein Hijaze, said: “Decisions and risk-taking are old dilemmas,” and added: “Decision-making is the art of solving or avoiding a problem without planting the seed of future discord.”
One should weigh the risks and costs of any decision against the expected benefits. Decision-making is not the only the job of a manager, who does not spend a great deal of time making decisions, “but it is a specific job of the manager, one that is most risky and carries consequences a manager has to live with the longest,” says Drucker. “The worst-case scenario is when a manager is torn halfway between taking a decision or not,” said Hijaze, and “the best is having a clear and agreeable solution, as opposed to that of an escape from a painful decision.”

According to Hijaze, managers must first recognize and define the nature of a decision situation, identify the available alternatives and evaluate them.

The “best” alternative should be chosen, put into action and evaluated later on. “The human factor still plays an essential role in the decision-making process,” said Hijaze. “Most managers still take decisions according to their mentality and moods, despite the greater availability of data via information technologies and the internet.” “A manager has to ‘shelve’ his own ego if he wants to succeed in making the right decisions,” he added.

The classic model is a perspective approach that tells managers how to make decisions. They must obtain complete and perfect information, eliminate uncertainties and evaluate everything rationally and logically. The end result should be a decision best serving the interests of the company.

A state of certainty exists when the manager is reasonably sure of all the alternatives and their repercussions. In a risk situation, probability figures are brought into play to determine the potential payoffs and costs of available choices. In cases of uncertainty, a manager has no clear picture of all available solutions or their repercussions. “In Lebanon, a social gathering is the perfect venue to have a quick brainstorming session and most important decisions are made in this manner,” said Hijaze. “Unfortunately this constitutes a problem for female managers as it is very improbable that they would be welcomed in the boys’ circle.”

Hijaze touted the advantages of group decision-making as a way of generating better decisions. More information and knowledge are available, more alternatives can be proposed and greater acceptance of the final decision is more likely.

On the downside, the process takes longer, compromised decisions might emerge from indecisiveness and, ultimately, one single person may end up dominating the group. The major danger is the setting in of “group-think,” which sidesteps the best possible decision in favor of the group’s desire for consensus and cohesiveness. “The best means of assessing the degree of success of a company is to observe the lowest-ranking employee and his performance,” said Hijaze. “One can judge the performance of any organization by closely watching the janitor do his job. The cleanliness of the rest-rooms would be another indication of the workings of a company.”

In summary, Hijaze considered the participating type of leader as the best decision-maker, followed by the democratic type. The worst is the one-man show, who wants to go it alone.

By doing and saying nothing, at the end of the day one will end up as nothing, concluded LMA’s president, Atef Jubayli, adding: “Being surrounded by yes-men will ultimately lead to disaster.”

Beirut 25-08-2003
Ara Alain Arzoumanian
The Daily Star

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