(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Administrative Thought - Simon’s Decision-making Theory (Paper -1)

(Online Course) Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams

Topic: Administrative Thought: Simon’s Decision-making Theory

Factual Premises and Value Premises

Herbert Simon is widely known for his model of rational decision making. Imagining the environment of the decision maker as set of premises upon which decisions are based, Simon makes a distinction between two kinds of decision premises: factual premises and value premises. The factual premises are subject to empirical testing for finding out their validity, whereas the value premises are not subject to such tests. The former are concerned with the choice of means, the latter with the choice of ends of action. To quote Simon:

A rational decision, under the circumstances, can be looked at as the right conclusion derived from these two kinds of premises-the value premises and the factual premises.

The behaviour alternative model differs from the traditional ends-means approach where “the initial stipulation of ‘ends’ forecloses unduly the courses that are considered, and to some extent draws the official’s attention away from the actual situation in which he is placed.”

The task of decision involves three steps: (1) the listing of all the alternative strategies; (2) the determination of all the consequences that follow upon each of these strategies; (3) the comparative evaluation of these sets of consequents.”

Theory of Bounded Rationality

In construction his model, Simon conceives administration largely in terms of planning. The administrator, in taking decisions, must weight the pros and const of this action. His administrative man comes close to the concept of the rational economic man that seeks to maximize net satisfaction.

Simon acknowledges the limitations of the actual administrative in the process of his search for appropriate decision premises. First there are the habits and reflexes of the individual which are more, less unconscious. These are important determinants of individual action. Secondly, the individual’s values and loyalties in the organisational context might act as constraints on rational behavior Thirdly, data and information are likely to be limited and difficult to get, and the decision maker has to work under this basic limitation.

From the decision maker’s point of view, the choice of action is actually exercised in a perspective of simplified reality. He defines his own situation and takes decisions within the framework of his situational definition. This subjective frame of reference permits consideration of only a limited number of decision premises. Decision context is thus set by a frame of ‘bounded rationality which means that the decision maker does not have a complete knowledge of the situation and he has to make a choice to the best of his knowledge.

Under these circumstances, the decision maker is not searching for the optimal decision but a satisfactory one. The “satisficing administrative man is thus different from the maximising economic man.

Simon’s model of decision making is not free from blemishes. There are difficulties in measuring the costs and consequences of government action in many instances. In the practical world administration, the elaborate search process may not be feasible, as there is always demand for immediate action than cool contemplation. Yet, with all the imperfections, the Simon model has greatly encouraged the need for the use of various management techniques in public P9hcy making, and policy science has received the initial impulse from his formulation.

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