Regardless of the decision-making model used, or how competent and conscientious a decision-maker is, making decisions involves risk. Some risks are associated with the individual or group making the decision. Others relate to the information used to make the decision. Still others are related to the way that this information is employed in the decision-making process.
Often, the realization of some risks increases the probability of realizing others; they are deeply intertwined. Fortunately, awareness of these risks and their interplay is often sufficient to mitigate them. To this end, several decision-making perils and predicaments are discussed below.
Lesser known than Six Sigma, but no less valuable, the Shainin System is a structured program for problem solving, variation reduction, and quality improvement. While there are similarities between these two systems, some key characteristics lie in stark contrast.
This installment of “The War on Error” introduces the Shainin System, providing background information and a description of its structure. Some common problem-solving tools will also be described. Finally, a discussion of the relationship between the Shainin System and Six Sigma will be presented, allowing readers to evaluate the potential for implementation of each in their organizations.
Despite the ubiquity of corporate Six Sigma programs and the intensity of their promotion, it is not uncommon for graduates to enter industry with little exposure and less understanding of their administration or purpose. Universities that offer Six Sigma instruction often do so as a separate certificate, unintegrated with any degree program. Students are often unaware of the availability or the value of such a certificate.
Upon entering industry, the tutelage of an invested and effective mentor is far from guaranteed. This can curtail entry-level employees’ ability to contribute to company objectives, or even to understand the conversations taking place around them. Without a structured introduction, these employees may struggle to succeed in their new workplace, while responsibility for failure is misplaced.
This installment of “The War on Error” aims to provide an introduction sufficient to facilitate entry into a Six Sigma environment. May it also serve as a refresher for those seeking reentry after a career change or hiatus.
Previous volumes of “Making Decisions” have alluded to voting processes, but were necessarily lacking in detail on this component of group decision-making. This volume remedies that deficiency, discussing some common voting systems in use for group decision-making. Some applications and issues that plague these systems are also considered.
Although “voting” is more often associated with political elections than decision-making, the two are perfectly compatible. An election, after all, is simply a group (constituency) voting to decide (elect) which alternative (candidate) to implement (inaugurate). Many descriptions of voting systems are given in the context of political elections; substituting key words, as shown above, often provides sufficient understanding to employ them for organizational decision-making.
“Fundamentals of Group Decision-Making” (Vol. IV) addressed structural attributes of decision-making groups. In this volume, we discuss some ways a group’s activities can be conducted. An organization may employ several different techniques, at different times, in order to optimize the decision-making process for a specific project or group.
The following selection of techniques is not comprehensive; organizations may discover others that are useful. Also, an organization may develop its own technique, often using a commonly-known technique as a foundation on which to create a unique process. The choice or development of a decision-making process must consider the positive and negative impacts – potential or realized – on decision quality, efficiency, and organizational performance factors.
In business contexts, many decisions are made by a group instead of an individual. The same is true for other types of organization as well, such as nonprofits, educational institutions, and legislative bodies. Group decision-making has its advantages and its disadvantages. There are several other considerations also relevant to group decision-making, such as selecting members, defining decision rules, and choosing or developing a process to follow.
Successful group decision-making relies on a disciplined approach that proactively addresses common pitfalls. If an organization establishes a standard that defines how it will form groups and conduct its decision-making activities, it can reap the rewards of faster, higher-quality decisions, clearer expectations, less conflict, and greater cooperation.
While the Rational Model provides a straightforward decision-making aid that is easy to understand and implement, it is not well-suited, on its own, to highly complex decisions. A large number of decision criteria may create numerous tradeoff opportunities that are not easily comparable. Likewise, disparate performance expectations of alternatives may make the “best” choice elusive. In these situations, an additional evaluation tool is needed to ensure a rational decision.
The scenario described above requires Multi-criteria Analysis (MCA). One form of MCA is Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). In this installment of “Making Decisions,” application of AHP is explained and demonstrated via a common example – a purchasing decision to source a new production machine.
The rational model of decision-making feels familiar, intuitive, even obvious to most of us. This is true despite the fact that few of us follow a well-defined process consistently. Inconsistency in the process is reflected in poor decision quality, failure to achieve objectives, or undesired or unexpected outcomes.
Versions of the rational model are available from various sources, though many do not identify the process by this name. Ranging from four to eight steps, the description of each varying significantly, these sources offer a wide variety of perspectives on the classic sequential decision-making process. Fundamentally, however, each is simply an interpretation of the rational model of decision-making.
Given the importance of decision-making in our personal and professional lives, the topic receives shockingly little attention. The potential consequences of low-quality decisions warrant extensive courses to build critical skills, yet few of us ever receive significant instruction in decision-making during formal education, as part of on-the-job training, or from mentors. It is even under the radar of many conscientious autodidacts. The “Making Decisions” series of “The Third Degree” aims to raise the profile of this critical skillset and provide sufficient information to improve readers’ decision-making prowess.
It is helpful, when beginning to study a new topic, to familiarize oneself with some of the unique terminology that will be encountered. This installment of “Making Decisions” will serve as a glossary for reference throughout the series. It also provides a preview of the series content and a directory of published volumes.
Reviewing past installments of “The Third Degree” in preparation for the update post “Hindsight is 20/20; Foresight is 2020,” I realized that there had been a significant oversight. This post is aimed at correcting that oversight and filling the void I’m sure we have all felt.
In “Of Delegating and Dumping,” a compare-and-contrast exploration of the two managerial styles, I referenced “The Dumper’s Creed,” but had not presented it. Until now!
As you celebrate the nation’s independence this week, also take time to consider on what and whom your business or career depends. Celebrate the people – employees, coworkers, customers, suppliers, and so on – that help you thrive. If you are dealing with unreasonable demands from customers or suppliers, a toxic work environment, oppressive management, or other spirit-crushing situation, I encourage you to declare your independence!
Free yourself from the unnecessary constraints that others place on you personally or professionally. I am not offering empty platitudes, nor am I suggesting it will always be easy. It can often be difficult; there may be times that the toxicity seems necessary – or at least acceptable – in order to sustain your livelihood. It is in those moments that unreasonable people have the greatest opportunity to take advantage of you. Expelling those people will allow you to focus on developing positive relationships that make your career or business more profitable and more enjoyable.
Though the transformation may be difficult or feel unnatural, the renewed vigor and peace of mind that typically result will be worth every bit of effort expended. If you would like help writing your own declaration or guidance through the transformation, contact JayWink Solutions, an independent consulting and training organization.
Happy Independence Day!
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
Successful managers are – or need to quickly become – effective delegators. Many managers convince themselves, and sometimes others, that they are effectively delegating by assigning many tasks and giving many orders. Unfortunately, however, this is most often indicative of an antithetical situation. Effective delegation is a skill, like any other, that can be learned, practiced, and honed. To do so, managers must understand the difference between delegating and dumping.
To thoroughly develop this understanding, it is useful to consider the differences between delegating and dumping as they relate to five phases: Assignment, Support, Follow-up (or Progress Check), Feedback, and Recurrence.
For a coherent discussion of culture to take place, it is important to define the term in its intended context. Social psychologist Goodwin Watson referred to ‘culture’ as “the total way of life characteristic of a somewhat homogeneous society of human beings,” differentiating its use in social science from the vernacular “refinement of taste in intellectual and aesthetic realms.”
Watson also quotes anthropologist Ralph Linton’s definition of ‘culture’ as “the configuration of learned behavior whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society.”
Key components of each definition will help us translate the concept of culture from a discussion of at-large society to one of a corporate environment.
Browsing The Third Degree blog, it is easy to detect my predilection for analogy. Previous posts have been loaded with analogies aimed at making the subject matter more palatable – more interesting, more entertaining, more relatable, and more memorable.
Analogies and other literary devices are useful aids to learning. For example, an understanding of hydraulic systems can be applied to troubleshooting an electrical circuit, or vice versa, through analogy: pressure ≈ voltage, flow ≈ current, pump ≈ battery, valve ≈ switch, and so on. While not always perfect, analogies can provide foundational understanding of a topic, or help clear a mental block occurring in a specific area. Once the subject matter can be grasped at a fundamental level, a student can begin to build on this knowledge base, pursuing more advanced material.
On this date, in 1944, Allied forces launched the campaign that would ultimately liberate northern Europe from Nazi occupation. A great deal has been written about the military efforts to storm the beaches of France and advance inland. Much of this has been intended, at least ostensibly, to honor the soldiers that endured the hardships of war and the commanders that led them to victory. Some of it also commends civilians for their labor and sacrifice in support of the war effort.
Despite all of this, questions remain: Have we truly honored the “Greatest Generation?” What about the previous generations – those that sent their children and grandchildren to war, while food and other supplies were rationed at home?
To truly honor them, we must learn and embody the lessons they have to teach us about fortitude, resilience, and character. Opportunities to hear from them directly are vanishing rapidly. The youngest of this generation are in their 90s, and it is estimated that we lose 372 of them each day.
Last week’s post offered general advice regarding the work of “experts.” Writing it reminded me of a set of articles that I feel is worthy of some direct attention, as the theme becomes increasingly prevalent. Variations on “How to Read 100 Books a Year,” these articles demonstrate the misconception inherent in many of the “expert” articles of the type discussed. The misconception is that the advice given is universal.
Example articles include:
[Link] “How to Read 100 Books in a Year” – Thrive Global
[Link] “How to Read 100+ Books in One Year” – WikiHow
[Link] "How to Read 100 Books a Year" – Observer
[Link] "How to read 100 books in a year (and still have a life)" – Forrest Brazeal
[Link] "How I Read 100 Books in One Year (and How You Can, Too)" – BookRiot
[Link] "5 Steps To Reading 100 Books A Year – AuthenticGrowth
Innumerable “experts” are now able to share their wisdom widely, at the click of a button, thanks to the expansion of social media and blogging platforms. The ability to publish one’s assertions, however, does not ensure the validity or value of the content. There are few limitations on what one can publish.
Consider an example at the opposite end of this spectrum – peer-reviewed journals. Despite the rigorous review process, authors are occasionally discredited after publication of an article. Falsified data, inappropriate research protocols, or inconsistent conclusions may be discovered.
The journal scenario is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that there is a third party (journal editor) responsible for maintaining the integrity and quality of published research that will publish a correction. The bad news is that, many times, the correction may not reach those that rely on the original work, trusting its accuracy. Also, reproductions of the article may not include the correction as an update or attachment.
Unfiltered content does not provide even this imperfect safety net. Perhaps one can leave a comment online, disputing an article’s content or conclusions, but where does that lead? Often, nowhere.
The term sustainability is typically associated with issues such as natural resource depletion, recycling, or other matters of environmental stewardship. To fulfill its social responsibility, however, a company must first endure its own survival. In Getting Green Done, Auden Schendler defines sustainability as “being in business forever.” Achieving this requires long-term planning; the most fundamental plan required defines how the company will attract and develop the talented people necessary to operate the business profitably and responsibly in future generations.
Though it is a significant departure from the usual content, the poem below (don’t worry, it’s not a JayWink original!) seemed an appropriate contribution to this blog. It explains, in part, the purpose of “The Third Degree” – my attempt to “build a bridge” or “illuminate a path” for others to benefit from my experience.
That is not meant to suggest that the “bridges” built here will not sway in the wind; it is not my goal to provide “all the answers.” Capturing all possible variables and nuance that one may encounter is an unrealistic expectation. Instead, I strive to inspire relevant questions – the genesis of real learning.
“The Third Degree” is also an expression of gratitude to other “bridge-builders” – those that came before me, easing my “crossings,” those that work alongside me, and those I have yet to encounter. Finally, as does the old man in the poem, I hope to set an example that inspires others to build bridges along their own paths.
Enjoy “The Bridge Builder.”
Preparing for a job interview can be as stressful and time consuming as any exam in college. Like your professors tell you, it’s better to prepare over time instead of “cramming” the night before. While exam preparation may be specific to a course or certification, creating a Development Portfolio will prepare you for interviews throughout your career.
If you'd like to contribute to this blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
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