Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit: Chapter III - Administrative Behaviour: Process and techniques of decision-making

Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper - I)

Chapter III - Administrative Behaviour: Process and techniques of decision-making


Decision making can be defined as the selection based on some criteria of one behaviour alternative from two or more possible alternatives. Decision making two or more alternative there is no decision to be made. To decide means to cut off or, in practical content, to come to a conclusion.

In “The Function of the Executive”; Branard gave a comprehensive analytical treatment of decision making and noted: “The process of decision ……. Are largely techniques for narrowing choice.” In the words of Weihrich & Koontz, “Decision making is the selection of a source of action from among alternatives; it is the core of planning.” According to Haynes and Massie, “Decision making is a process of selection from a set of alternative courses of action which is thought to fulfill the objective of the decision problem more satisfactorily than other”. On the basis of the above description, the following features of decision making can be identified:

  1. Decision making is a goal-oriented process.
  2. Decision making implies a set of alternatives.
  3. Decision making is a dynamic process.
  4. Decision making is always related to the environment. An executive may take one decision in a particular set of circumstances and another in a different set of circumstances.
  5. Decision making is a continuous or on-going process.
  6. Decision making is an intellectual or rational process.

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Types of Decisions

Decisions can be classified in a number of ways as shown below:

1.Organizational and Personal Decisions: organizational decisions are made to advance the interests of the organisations. Personal decisions are made by an executive as an individual and not as a part of an organisation. An executive who changes jobs or organisations is making a personal decision.

2.Individual and Group Decisions: When a decision is taken by an individual in the organisation, it is known as individual decision. Group decisions are those taken by a group of persons constituted for this purpose. Group decision making generally results in more realistic and well balanced decision and encourages participative decision making.

3. Routine and Strategic Decisions: Routine decisions are made respectively following certain established rules, procedures and policies. Strategic or basic decision, on the other hand, are more important and are generally taken by the top management of organisations. They relate to policy matters and so required a thorough fact finding and analysis of the possible alternatives.

4. Programmed and Non-programmed Decisions: Programmed decisions are concerned with relatively routine and repetitive problems. Information on these problems is already available and can be processed in a pre- lanned manner. Such decisions have short-term impact and are relatively simple.

Non-programmed decisions deal with unique or unusual problems. Such novel or non-repetitive problems cannot be tackled in a predetermined manner. There are not cut-and-dried solutions or ready made answers for such problems. Therefore, a high degree of executive judgment and deliberation is required to solve them

5.Policy and Operative Decisions: Policy decision are of vital importance and are taken by the top management. They effect the entire organisation. But operating decisions are taken by the lower management in order to put into action the policy decisions.

Decision Making Process

A decision is generally not take in isolation as it is affected by previous behaviour as well as by consequences anticipated in the future. It is therefore necessary to understand decision making as process as the question of final selection of choice from alternatives should not result in false emphasis ignoring the lengthy complex process which precedes that final choice. The decision making process can be divided into the following – distinct steps, namely.

1. Defining the problem: The decision making process begins with the recognition of a problem that requires a decision.

2.Analyzing the problem and Gathering Information: The analysis of a problem involves classifying the problem. Classification is necessary in order to know who should take the decision and who should be consulted in making it.

3. Developing Alternative Solutions: Developing alternative solutions to the problem is a very important step in the decision making process. There is rarely a problem for which alternative solutions helps to make the best decision, after a careful evaluation of the most desirable courses of action in the situation.

4.Selection the Best Solution: In order to choose the best alternative, one will have to evaluate the available alternatives. There are various ways to evaluate alternatives. The most common method is through intuition i.e., choosing a solution that seems to be a good idea at that time.

There is an inherent danger in this process because an executive’s intuition may be wrong on certain occasions. A second way to choose the best alternative is to weight the consequences of one against those of the other.

5.Converting the decision in to effective action: After a solution has been selected, applying the above criteria, steps must be taken to translate it into effective action. The decision should be presented to the people who are to take part in its execution, in a language they can understand.

Herbert Simon and Decision Making Proces

The main contribution of Simon relates to the analysis of organizational behaviour from the standpoint of ‘decision making’, particularly its non-rational character. The greet administrative theorist believes that systems analysis is leading to the there hold of revolution in management decision making. According to his thesis, administrative theory should be based primarily around the question of choice and decision making as the core of administration.

Simon is highly critical of the principles of administration formulated by Lyndall F. Urwich and Luther Gullick, particularly those relating to unity of command, span of control, line and staff, hierarchy and departmentalization by functions. He ridicules these principles as ‘proverbs’ and ‘myths’.

He opines that for each of the classical principles, there is an opposite and equally valid principle. Herbert Simon is associated with the social systems school and visualizes organizational problem in its total and psychological context. According to Simon, there are three sequential steps in the overall process of making a decision. There are:

(a) The Intelligence Activity: It means finding occasions calling for a decision.

(b) The Design Activity: It means investing, developing and analyzing possible courses of action.

(c) The Choice Activity: It refers to selecting a particular courses of action from those available.

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