Essays on Decision Making

The actual amount of funds allocated to different departments within a university organization are strongly related to the amount of decision-making power they have (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1974). The more powerful the department, the less they have to worry about demand for courses and departmental workload. Pfeffer and Salancik (1974) analyzed decision making by evaluating subunit’s budgets. Organizational subunits are interdependent with each decision affecting others. Resource allocations to subunits in organizational decision making might be influenced by other subunits within the organization. Outside forces like state legislatures can influence the allocation of resources.

Leaders must be sensitive to evolving interests and changing leadership needs within organizations. They must let go of issues that become fused. Decision makers change regularly which sometimes makes organizational preferences unclear to members of the organization. Since there is no formal organizational process for finding solutions, decision-makers are often detached from problems and their possible solutions. Due to this, few problems are ever fully solved, and continue to exist. “Ill-defined preferences” can lead to ambiguous goals. This makes the decision-making process longer since all members goals are different based on their own self-interests. The garbage can model of organizational choice is a theory where decisions are made ambiguously in a haphazard manner (Cohen, 1972). This analogy describes decisions that need to be made (choice opportunities) are thrown into a “garbage can.” Some organizations have to decide between unrelated problems and others by sorting through “recycling” (metaphor). The decision-making process comes from the interplay of four organization streams of events:

These four factors go in and out of the “garbage can,” allowing random solutions to pop up. An example of this is that one of the authors served on a search committee to find a new Dean at UC Irvine, in the end the search committee chair was hired by chance.

Some literature has argued that there are two classes of decision variables which can be employed in determining resource allocations. First, there are variables that represent universalistic or bureaucratic criteria. Second, there are those variables which represent particularistic or political criteria that are used in decision making. It is further argued that organizational decision making, particularly with respect to decisions that allocate resources within the organization. are political in nature and that to understand resource allocation within organizations considerations of relative power of the subunits, as well as of bureaucratic criteria, are necessary.

A bureaucratic model uses detailed objectives and a rather rational system to make decisions. A coalition model views participants as having contrasting objectives and values and is least likely to be used. The rational choice model is incomplete because: (a) alternatives are not given but must be sought, (b) information as to what consequences stem from which alternatives must also be sought, (c) comparisons among alternatives are usually made along many dimensions, and (d) the identification (Cyert, Simon, & Trow, 1956).

The bureaucratic model of organizations focuses on universalistic criteria, formalization of rules, hierarchy of authority, defined channels of communication, and concern with efficiency and goal attainment. Another model is a group of professionals organized on a collegial basis which stresses decision making through consultation rather than formal authority. In the political model, organizations are viewed as a coalition. Decision making is done through find who has power to decide in a particular context.

The decision to include African American studies and assist minority serving institutions (MSIs) to reach research status show the impact of decision-making and its consequences. Since 1968 African American students have been protesting for African American history and culture to be taught at institutions. Rojas (2006) studied disruptive and non-disruptive protests to see which tactics encouraged organizational change. Social control hypothesis riots (disruptive tactics) allow for concessions to be made in exchange for ending protests. Instead, Rojas (2006) found that non-disruptive tactics (rallies and hunger strikes) indirectly changed organizations by showing contradiction in stated ideologies, policies, and social mores. These tactics are motivated by the idea that power holders will change their behavior if the movement demonstrates that many people agree with the movement’s demands. Neo-institutional theory suggests that protests might have an important indirect consequence, and create uncertainty for organizations. The growth of an African-American Studies program is evidence that student mobilization and racial consciousness is part of the academic discipline.

Gonzales (2012) studied faculty agency, mission creep, and BU, an MSI. Mission creep (away from teaching students) leads to higher administrative costs, elimination of vocational programs, and less access to higher education. This can occur when, for example, more resources are allocated to research, than student-related services. There is a gap in the literature when it comes to addressing faculty who are stuck in mission creep.

Bourdieu’s faculty agency theory is highly structured by power relations. They see individuals as agents in nested fields. They can deploy strategies, but are not free of constraints. On the other hand, new institutionalism describes organizations with power given to cultural practices rather than objectifiable means and ends. Behavior is always depending on the culture or “field” that organizational agents are working in. It is likely that there will be more constraints on public intuitions than private. Also, those which are newer, less prestigious, and have less power. More research needs to be done on criteria used to make organizational decisions, and who gets the final say.

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