Individual Decision Making- Lloyd Smith

Decision Making Theories We all make individual decisions. Decisions made in an

Individual Decision Making is EXPLOSIVE!

organization, although individual, can affect the institution. The individual decisions have to fit or meld into the collective decision-making activities of the organization (Bess and Dee, 2012). What is the psychology of decision making, and does it lend to the agency an individual in an organization needs to achieve self-efficacy? How do individuals in an organization make their decisions, and how are they achieved? What modes are used to come to the decisions people make in an organization?

There are three modes of individual decision making addressed in Bess and Dee (2012). They fall into one of the following three categories: calculation-based; recognition-based, and affect-based decision making (Bess and Dee, 2012), also go to this link for an interesting publication on these three decision making categories –

These modes are the vehicles that transport an individual decision into one of five theories, or approaches, Bess and Dee highlight for making decisions (Bess and Dee, 2012). The authors state, “ultimately all five approaches aim at understanding how the individual must fit into the needs of the organization for the system to be efficient and effective, and how the organization must make adaptations to the needs of the individual,” (Bess and Dee, 2012, p 634). The five following decision making theories provide a better understanding of how decisions are made in an organization by a collective group of individuals.

·     The “garbage can” model for decision making was developed in 1972 by Michael D. Cohen (, James G. March (, and Johan P. Olsen ( (Bess and Dee, 2012).

 ·  To learn more about the Garbage Can decision making, these links will prove instructive, and lead to other sources that describe this model:

YouTube Video:

·    Garbage Can Theory is a process of decision making in higher education described by Cohen, March, and Olsen in which decisions in the organization are made in haphazardly, and where institutions “may best be described as organized anarchies,” (Bess and Dee, 2012, p 634). The ingredients that are stirred into the cesspool of the proverbial garbage can of decision making are choice opportunities, solutions, the participants, and all the problems associated in the process of making the decisions within the institution (Bess and Dee, 2012). This unpredictable method of decision making is not linear, but rather intertwined into a ball of ambiguity, which requires constant revision and attention. Garbage Can Theory is hit and misses at resolving issues or making decisions, meaning that sometimes this type of decision making works even if it is convoluted.

      II. Role Play Theory (or role playing) in organizational decision making (found in

     Bess and Dee, 2012, p 637):

·    The Role Play Theory for decision making was penned by Henry Mintzberg   ( 

·    To learn more about the Role Play decision making, these links will prove instructive, and lead to other sources that describe this model:

A Mintzberg Role Play video:

·    The decision making approach of Role Play Theory addresses the Mintzberg hypothesis that decision makers utilize intuition and heuristics to gather and analyze the information needed to make decisions (Bess and Dee, 2012). This is due mainly to the limited time to plan, much less contemplate, their decisions. These decision makers must make decisions “off-the-cuff” or quickly, and with limited data (Bess and Dee, 2012). Their intuition used as decision making methods must be acute or they fail miserably. Mintzberg contemplated and posited that there were three basic managerial (or decision maker) roles, which are: interpersonal; informational, and decisional (Bess and Dee, 2012). Each of these roles can be broken down into separate parts, such as interpersonal roles. Interpersonal roles include the figurehead, the leader, and the liaison (Bess and Dee, 2012). Informational roles include the monitor (he’s like the floor manager at a restaurant that drops by your table as you are in mid-bite, and asks, “Is everything OK?” --- then moves quickly to the next table before you can swallow--- I have fired many of these “managers”), information disseminator (an important role for information saturation in an organization), and the spokesperson (this can be correlated as a college or university president). Then there are the decisional roles in Mintzberg’s Role Play theory of management (decision maker), which include the entrepreneur (these role players take ownership in their organization, and not only see the internal but the external environment equally as important in the decisions to be made in an organization), the disturbance handler (says it all), and the resource allocator (we all ought to love these folks, especially when our department needs new equipment or we need a paycheck).

 III. Personality Manifestations in decision making (found in Bess and Dee, 2012,

     p 639):

·    The authors responsible for decision making by Personality Manifestations are Ian I. Mitroff (video: at and Ralph H. Kilmann (video: at

·    To learn more about Personality Manifestations as  decisions making, these links will prove instructive, and lead to other sources that describe this model:  

-          See your Personality Manifestation type by using a personality type indicator at:

·    Bess and Dee address Mitroff and Kilmann’s theory on personality manifestation, which theorizes “that if it is possible to classify different kinds of people, the kinds of decisions that they would be most competent in making can be more easily and accurately determined,” (2012, p 639). An easier way to describe this is that in understanding a person’s (employee’s) personality within an organization, the better fit can be made to what they would be effective in when making decisions. Some people process information by thinking or feeling, while others are better at accessing information by intuition and/or sensation (Bess and Dee, 2012). Mitroff and Kilmann break down the decision making styles of people within an organization in these before-mentioned modes, which inform their decision making characteristics: systematics (sensation and thinking); judicials (sensation and feeling); speculatives (intuition and thinking), and heuristics (intuition and feeling) (Bess and Dee, 2012, pp 640-641). In the various departments of colleges and universities these decision maker types will be concentrated, such as institutional research failing under the speculative decision makers.

 IV. Information Utilization Theory of decision making (found in Bess and Dee, 2012,

      p 643):

·    The author of this theory of decision making is Michael J. Driver.

·    To learn more about Information Utilization as  a type decision making theory, these links will prove instructive, and lead to other sources that describe this model:


·    The theory behind Information Utilization in decision making for an organization is the intrinsic nature of information in higher education and its effective and efficient utilization. Bess and Dee agree that information is important in teaching, administrating, and decision making in postsecondary education, along with effective facilitation of learning and research (2012). In an organization an appropriate optimum amount of information is necessary; much like the Middle Way by Confucius, there is a balance needed with institutional information--- not too much, nor too little, in order to make decisions effectively for the benefit of the institution. Bess and Dee highlight that Driver addresses the decision maker(s) as uni-focus leaders or multi-focus leader, as well as the wealth of information an organization, whether rich or poor in information, utilizes to make institutional advancing decisions (2012). The information used and the solutions that are generated by appropriate utilization of information can highly affect an organization, be it positively or negatively. Bess and Dee address this conundrum of affect from information utilization, and its amount used, by positing breaking down Driver’s Information Utilization approach to decision making into four parts: decisive, i.e. “short-run, operational level”; flexible, i.e. “brainstorming and improvisation”; hierarchy, i.e. “long-range, strategic planning; need much information but seek one solution,” and integrated, i.e. (much information is used to create several solutions” in their information use (2012, p 644-645). These four are focused by one or multiple alternative decision styles, and are classified into these four diverse organizational decisions types.   

 V. Gamble Theory within decision making theory (found in Bess and Dee, 2012, p 646).

·    The authors behind the concept of Gamble Theory as a metaphor and approach to decision making are William M. Goldstein and Elke U. Weber.

·    To learn more about Gamble Theory as an approach to decision making theory, these links will prove instructive, and lead to other sources that describe this model:

YouTube Video:

·    The Gambling metaphor as an approach in decision making theory within an organization involves uncertainty and risk, but these can be effective and based in statistical probability. If risk is involved in making a decision for an organization the “decision makers know the alternatives, but they are not certain what the outcomes will be,” (Bess and Dee, 2012, p 646). The uncertainty a decision maker risks when making organization decisions is a “gamble” that acumen in mental calculations of the probability of the outcome is key to achieving an anticipated reward (Bess and Dee, 2012). The gambled approach to a decision is best made by a dynamic individual with a propensity for risk-taking, which is difficult when a group of decision makers are involved (Bess and Dee, 2012).An inherent sense of statistical probability and outcome is needed, but there is a tool mentioned by Bess and Dee that breaks down the complexity involved in decision making is the decision tree (2012). The risk taking leader who utilizes the gamble for decision making can maximize the reward of a decision. The decision tree can be utilized by the risk-taking leader (gambler) or a group of decision makers to mind-map the possible outcomes, and identify the most appropriate policy for the organization (Bess and Dee, 2012). The gamble attempts to predict the outcome, and by the use of the decision tree, or mind-map, a risk-taking leader can best see the payoff.



Bess, J.L. & Dee, J.R. (2012). Chapter 5: Individual decision making. In Bess, J.L. & Dee,

            J.R. (Eds), Understanding college and university organization: theories for effective

            policy and practice, volume II – dynamics of the system (pp.628-659). Sterling, VA:

            Stylus Publishing.


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