Decision-Making Strategies in Educational Organization

Article excerpt

Organizational decision making is a complex and, subsequently, confusing process. The process may be characterized as an attempt to achieve a solution to a choice dilemma. Because of the organizational complexity of educational institutions, decisions are required for a variety of dilemmas that range from routine decisions, such as course schedules and grade appeals, to exceptional decisions, such as a departmental name change, a major curriculum revision, or funding for a new facility. In the simplest format, decisions are made by recognizing the dilemma, clarifying the related issues, collecting referent information, prioritizing solutions, and implementing the solution with the highest organizational priority. To further understand the decision-making process, it is important to understand that it is a purely autocratic behavior. Problems or dilemmas may be resolved by groups of people through collective bargaining, or through democratic consensus building; however, in the purest sense, a decision is an act of one person.

The decision-making process is somewhat unclear. Decision making is often considered more of an art than a science; and some administrators are quite artful at applying intuitive feelings to choice dilemmas. However, educational administrators can improve the process by considering the appropriate factors involved in making a decision. The purpose of this article is to help decision makers, administrators in this case, understand the contextual and referent environment that surrounds organizational decision making. Only by understanding/appreciating the context in which decisions are made can administrators make and implement meaningful decisions.

Topologies of the Decision-Making Process

Numerous topologies have been constructed to describe the decision-making process. Two decision-making schemas I find particularly useful were developed by Odiorne (1969) and Drucker (1966) [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. Odiorne classified decisions on three levels: routine, problem-solving, and innovative. Drucker used a similar topological structure; however, he used the terms "generic," "'new generic,'" and "exceptional decisions."

* Routine Decisions - Routine, or generic, decisions are those decisions that carry the unit forward in daily operation. These decisions are characterized as high-volume, low-impact types of decisions. The dilemmas are fairly straightforward and the consequences of the action are reversible - for example, adding an additional class to the course schedule, purchasing routine supplies, and signing add cards.

* Problem-solving Decisions - Problem-solving, or "new" generic, decisions involve repetitive circumstances that require unique solutions. Because problem-solving dilemmas are repetitive, operational procedures often are established within organizations to facilitate solutions to "new" generic problems. For example, the tenure/promotion of a faculty member is a repetitive event that requires a relatively unique solution. Although the procedures and criteria used to solve these dilemmas are fairly well established, the administrator must interpret these criteria and apply them to a specific faculty member.

* Innovative Decisions - Innovative, or exceptional, decisions represent significant paradigm shifts within the organization. Seldom are there precedents for these decisions, and the referent information is often subject to extraneous or strategic misrepresentation. Many curricular decisions may be classified as innovative, that is, adding a new doctoral program in health sciences, terminating a major program of study, or revising the general education core curriculum. These decisions usually involve significant risks for the decision maker; however, the potential benefits of controlled change often outweigh these risks. Innovative decisions normally involve a protracted period of information gathering, and often simulate the characteristic process of consensus building. …