Decision making is an essential and strategic function in any organization. While organizations purport to make rational and objective decisions, particularly regarding strategic investments, this is rarely the case. Executive teams—and individual decision makers—are subject to group and individual biases, limits on what they can focus on and rules of thumb that strongly influence how choices are evaluated and decision are made. Many of these influences lie outside of the conscious awareness of the individual and the group.
Influences on decision making are not wholly personal. While each of us has personal biases, there are also team norms as well as cultural and political influences within our organizations that shape how we evaluate and respond to challenges. These factors collectively influence how we approach evaluating problems and making decisions. The impact is that despite our best attempts to be objective, we are often led unconsciously to choose outcomes that are essentially programmed by our culture.
Recent research we conducted strongly highlighted the influence that organizational culture has on decision making. Many organizations were politically influenced, and only a few emphasized process—although many more thought they did. The majority of organizations, however, had chaotic decision making environments. Cultural inconsistencies created inconsistent decisions. In a select few organizations, individuals were able to develop strategies to overcome the challenge of their environment. By understanding the culture and our options within it, we are better able to frame and make effective decisions.
Interthink Consulting has developed particular expertise in supporting the process of decision making in organizations. Our Decision Culture Assessment is designed to help executive and management teams understand the decision culture as it exists today, and the influences that are operative. By making these factors visible and explicit, it is subsequently possible to address and understand how they influence the decision making process. Executives and managers, by recognizing the factors at work, are able to consciously assess the influences of the culture on the choices they make. The result is a more informed approach to decision making in general, with more constructive discussions around the impact of particular decisions and greater executive confidence that they are making the right choice.