l. Quality of Decision-making and Command (2)

Quality of Decision-making and Command (Part 2)

For a command to be issued, opportunities and threats which provide motivators to the command component or the organisation and its stakeholders must exist.  Normally, there are several at any one time and the command component will grasp the opportunity or avoid the threat which yields greatest emotional benefit, leaving others for later. However, what is regarded as the highest priority opportunity or threat depends upon the command components traits as described in the previous article. For example, a self-serving attitude will favour personal opportunities and threats over organisational ones.

A potential solution is then identified, and the resources required for its implementation are compared with those available. As explained in a previous article, the use of resources has a negative emotional impact. However, the greater their availability, the less this impact.

The potential solution is also compared for compliance with the command component’s understanding of the culture in which the organisation operates, i.e., social values, norms, and beliefs. Understanding of this culture can vary from a full understanding to none at all, or it can be misinterpreted. Normally, the less compliant the proposed solution, the greater the disbenefits of acting on it. However, self-serving command components can have no cultural schema, a distorted one, or may simply ignore it.

The trustworthiness of the subordinate components or followers selected to implement the command is a risk that is also assessed. This will normally be based on feedback on their past performance and a perception of whether they share mutual interests with the command component or the organisation and its stakeholders. The more trustworthy the subordinates, the greater the benefits of implementing the proposed solution.

Other risks are also considered, for example, the failure of the proposed solution to deliver the benefits anticipated, or the use of greater resources than anticipated.

A risk/benefit/cost analysis is then carried out. If carried out by an individual, it is usually based entirely on emotional impacts. However, in larger organisations it can be a more formal process. Ultimately, however, even the most thorough formal analysis is founded on emotional impacts. The analysis yields an overall emotional benefit or disbenefit by adding together the positive emotional value of the benefits sought, the negative emotional value of the resources used, and the negative emotional value of any cultural non-compliance. The trustworthiness of the followers chosen to implement the solution and any other risk factors increase or decrease these individual values.

Based on this analysis, a decision is then taken on whether to implement the proposed solution. If the analysis shows a positive overall emotional benefit, then it will normally be implemented, and the command component will then consider the next highest priority opportunity or threat. However, if it has an overall emotional disbenefit, it will not. An alternative solution will be proposed, and the process will repeat until a satisfactory solution is found, or it is concluded that there is none. Thus, one of two feedback loops will occur, depending on this decision.

If it has been decided to proceed with a solution, then a command will normally be issued. Motivators, i.e., satisfiers, may also be offered to encourage the follower to implement the command. The resources required for these motivators will have been taken into account during the risk/benefit/cost analysis. However, if the follower has previously proven unwilling or if the use of resources can be reduced, then a coercive approach involving contra-satisfiers may be threatened.

Finally, if it has been decided to implement a course of action which does not comply with cultural values and norms, e.g., if the command component’s motives are entirely self-serving, then mitigation will be necessary. In the case of an individual leader, this can take the form of false displays of culturally acceptable motivation, explanations, rationales, distractions, etc. In the case of a business organisation, mitigation services are provided by public relations consultants, advertising consultants and business psychologists. As also stated by H.G. Wells, “Advertising is legitimised lying”. In the case of a political organisation, advice can be provided by spin doctors. In the extreme it can become propaganda and the silencing of dissenting voices. Again, the resources needed for this will have been taken into account in the risk/benefit/cost analysis. It is interesting to note that a surfeit of self-serving leaders leads to a surfeit of mitigation. This, in turn, leads to much social confusion regarding the truth, and thus, to mental ill health. Positive psychology and mindfulness merely treat the symptoms and not the cause. Furthermore, they distract us from dealing with the cause.

k. Quality of Decision-making and Command (1)

Quality of Decision-making and Command (Part 1)

Command is a generic term and can mean instructions, requests, or implied wishes.

Quality of decision-making and command determines whether decisions yield maximum utility for the stakeholders of an organisation, fail in this, or provide utility only for its leaders. A stakeholder is not merely a person or organisation with a financial interest, but one who is affected by it, directly or indirectly, in any way.

Individuals or organisations can either seek or seek to avoid command roles. Whether an individual seeks a command role depends on his genetic inheritance, upbringing, education, and experience, but the relative influence of each is not known. Ultimately, every organisation from a small club to a group of nations is commanded by a single individual. Thus, the factors which influence an individual’s attitude also affect any organisation he or she commands. There are many examples of a leader of one nation wishing to extend its influence over others.

The command component/ subordinate component relationship is known as the leader/ follower relationship when applied to individuals. Because each organisation and component organisation is led by an individual, the relationship is normally negotiated between individuals and provides emotional benefits to both. An individual’s needs are for survival/procreation, relatedness, and growth and it is the satisfaction of these needs which is the subject of negotiation. The needs of larger organisations are similar, i.e., they wish to survive, have a positive relationship with the society in which they operate, and grow. These organisational needs are interpreted by individuals when negotiations between organisations, from individual to international level, take place. However, the priorities we give to both individual and organisational needs change with time, and so too do the priorities we give to their satisfiers. Relationships can therefore alter. They can be newly established, adapt, become more or less satisfactory, or fail.

Any organisation or individual that seeks a command or leadership role will, either honestly or dishonestly, display an ability to supply motivators to potential subordinate organisations or followers. These motivators may be rewards or satisfiers of their followers’ needs. Thus, a potential individual leader will make displays of wealth, for example an expensive lifestyle, or of influence, for example name dropping. A larger potential command component will also make displays of wealth and influence. Alternatively, motivators may comprise contra-satisfiers or punishments, i.e., those things we are motivated to avoid. In this case, a potential individual leader will display power through physical strength, bullying, size of following, control over the satisfiers of potential followers, etc. A larger organisation may threaten legal action and a nation may threaten war.

The quality of any command depends on the following traits of the command component. In the case of individuals, each trait is caused by a combination of genetic inheritance, upbringing, education, and experience, but the relative influence of each is unknown. Again, because organisations are ultimately led by an individual, these traits will affect any larger decision-making body.

  1. The competence of the command component to make decisions, e.g., whether they have experience and understanding of the relevant field, and whether they have the cognitive skills to make appropriate decisions. Their focus is frequently relatively narrow. In practice, an understanding of human society is beyond our individual cognitive ability, and so we often simplify, focusing only on the particular organisation commanded and its immediate stakeholders. The more extensive the impact of the organisation, the more problematic this becomes. Thus for example, governing a nation needs to be supported by complex systems modelling of the type described at
  2. Whether the command component has a self-serving attitude or a collectivist one, i.e., a concern for themselves alone or for the organisation and its stakeholders as a whole. As explained in previous articles, we are social animals, and our individual interest strongly derives from that of our community. Usually, therefore, leaders will balance short term personal interests with longer term collectivist ones. However, this is not always the case, and some individuals will focus solely, or to a very large extent on immediate personal interest. Due to leader/ follower negotiations, this attitude can cascade down through an organisation and even affect whole nations. Ways of avoiding this will be discussed in a subsequent article.
  3. Whether the command component tends to centralise decision making upon itself or is willing to delegate it to subordinates. If the attitude is a self-serving one, then decisions will, of course, be centralised to ensure that they are in the interest of the decision-makers. If it is collectivist, then more delegation will take place. However, the more a decision is centralised, the more overloaded decision-makers will become. On the other hand, the more it can be in the interest of all stakeholders. The more it is delegated, the less likely it will be that decision makers become overloaded. On the other hand, the more likely it is to be in the interest of the sub-ordinates to whom it is delegated. Neither extreme is satisfactory. A balance needs to be struck, therefore, with monitoring and policing of decisions by both parties.
  4. Whether the command style is authoritarian or consultative. A consultative style requires time for consultation. Overloaded decision makers will, therefore, become more authoritarian, and less likely to fully acquaint themselves with the circumstances surrounding the decision. Due to this lack of information and criticism from more knowledgeable subordinates, authoritarian decisions are likely to be of lower utility than consultative ones. Self-serving decisions require mitigations such as justifying rationales. This also requires time and effort. Self-serving decision-makers will, therefore, also become more authoritarian. Those with more time or the interests of the organisation and its stakeholders at heart are more likely to be consultative.
  5. Whether the command component is informed or uninformed about the relevant issue. This includes the quality of information received from sub-ordinate components and from the environment. High quality information enables good decisions but requires resources to gather, verify and police.

Any one of these traits is sufficient to affect the quality of decision making. However, several can combine either to have a greater effect or to cancel one another out. The traits are also inter-related with one being sufficient but not necessary to cause the other. For example, a self-serving attitude leads to a tendency to centralise decision making. This in turn can lead to overload. Due to a lack of time to persuade, overload can lead to an authoritarian attitude. This, in turn, due to a lack of consultation, can lead to uninformed decisions. All these factors lead to poor decision making. Furthermore, because there is a causal time lag, their impact steadily degrades the quality of decision making over time. Thus, a self-serving attitude is a highly significant factor in poor decision making, whose effect grows with time. This causal cascade means that leaders, who may initially have only a slightly self-interested attitude, can over time slide down a slippery slope into despotism. A partial solution may be to place a time limit on any command role, as in a true electoral democracy. However, more is required to ensure that we are not ruled by the excessively self-serving.