On the individual side the model gives guidance on questions such as
- What decision and communication behavior have I developed when acting in more formal situations?
- How does my behavior change when working alone?
- What impact does increased pressure have on my behavior?
- How can I learn to communicate more effectively with other people?
- What is most intellectually motivating for me at work?
- How can I develop the fit between my work tasks and my intellectual motivation at work?
On the organizational side the model gives guidance on questions such as
- How to select a successful team depending on task and style diversity among co-workers?
- What decision styles are represented in our management team?
- How do we develop the members to become an effective team or work group?
- What behavior can we anticipate from the team members depending on external changes like increased pressure or uncertainty?
- How do we distribute work tasks to stimulate co-workers in accordance with their own intellectual motivation?
Leadership and management functions vary widely from organization to organization, but there is one function all leaders and managers have in common they all must make decisions. Studies of managers portray the average day in a manager's life as packed with decisions, large and small, from beginning to end. And, these decisions are crucial because, for better or worse, they affect individual, team and organizational performance.
Decision styles are learned habits of thinking. Like all of our styles writing, talking, dressing, or playing games, we learn to make decisions in school, at work, in leisure time activities, and from following the examples of others. Because of diverse backgrounds and experiences, people learn varied styles of decision making.
As you will see, no one of the styles we will describe is better or worse than any other style in an absolute sense. Each style has its strong and weak points. So, a particular style of decision making is "good" or "bad" only insofar as it either fits or fail to fit the demands of a situation. Because situations requiring decisions differ so dramatically, a style that works well in some situations may run into difficulties in others.
The Benefits of Understanding Decision Styles
Being able to diagnose others' decision styles and knowing how to adjust to each style can aid in selecting people for particular jobs, designing decisionmaking procedures and making presentations. Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each style helps the manager make appropriate task and team assignments. Sizing up the style demands of a job enables a manager to pinpoint developmental actions that can prepare people for new responsibilities.
Teams need a variety of styles. Different styles complement each other and prevent the team from falling into dangerous ruts of thinking. Different styles allow the team to develop creativity, good planning. aggressive operations and the ability to respond quickly to a changing business environment. But, the style differences that teams also cause tension and difficulty among team members.
Managers and executives who understand how decision styles differ, and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each style, can take advantage of these differences. They are able to see these differences as opportunities for team synergy, rather than as obstacles and sources of destructive conflict. Moreover, executives who understand styles know how to benefit from strengths of their own styles. They know how to recognize situations where they must do things in ways that differ from what they normally would do as a matter of habit. And, they understand when to delegate tasks and decisions to others.
Our particular framework for identifying decision styles evolved from a conceptual model originally developed by Dr Michael J. Driver. The current model, called the Driver Dynamic Decision Style model, resulted from more than twenty years of research into the dynamics of management decision making. The model has two basic parts. One part deals with the amount of information a person typically uses in problem solving and decision making. The other part deals with focus whether a person typically zooms in one course of action, or generates a variety of alternatives and options.
Information Use: Maximizers and Satisficers
People differ widely in the amount of information they use in decision making. Some reach conclusions from just a few facts. Other reach conclusions only after gathering and studying large amounts of information. The Figure below graphically portrays the difference between the low and high information users. The curve shows that, in general, the first items of information that you consider when making a decision contribute significantly to your understanding of the situation. Generally, the first facts have more value than do items of information you might consider later, after you already know a lot about the situation. Early in the process, you knowledge is going from zero to something greater. That is when information is most likely to be really eye-opening. Some people, the Satisficers, believe that they have enough information to make the decision at point B. Others, whom we call Maximizers, keep evaluating information until they simply are learning nothing new about the problem.
Uni-Focus and Multi-Focus Decision-Makers
When faced with a situation calling for problem-solving, some people typically come up with one specific solution that they feel is the best or most feasible for the situation. We call this the uni-focus mode. Other people, faced with the same situation, quite predictably will generate a variety of alternatives or options for dealing with the situation. This is the multi-focus mode.
Keep in mind that information use and focus are completely independent of each other. Maximizers and Satisficers are equally likely to be uni-focus or multi-focus decision makers. Uni-focus and multi-focus differences are easy to recognize in business strategies. Multi-focus decision makers prefer diverse strategies, perhaps even across industries. Their inclination is to want a mix of different businesses and activities rather than a strict, "stick to the knitting" strategy. Uni-focus decision makers prefer a strategy that concentrates in one industry or, perhaps, one product line. Too much diversification they see as distracting and detrimental to effectiveness. They have a clear a definite focus.
Focus differences between people are a major source of tension. Typically, uni-focus decision makers have very strong views about the best way to do things. Faced with any situation, they usually have a very specific criterion in mind, such as cost, quality, or fairness, by which they will evaluate any goal. Multi-focus thinkers, on one hand, often use many criteria to evaluate potential solutions. In other words, they have multiple goals in mind. So, while one solution may fit some criteria very well, another course of action may fit other criteria better. Consequently, they are more open to alternatives and more conditional in their thinking.
This conditional way of thinking rubs uni-focus decision makers wrong. To them, their multi-focus associates appear confused, wishy-washy, lacking in values, or simply "flaky". On the other hand, the strong, highly focussed views of the uni-focus people strike the multi-focus thinkers as being rigid, narrow, unyielding, and dogmatic. When the tension ascalates, these rather polite descriptors give way to even more colorful adjectives.
Five Basic Decision Styles
By combining the two modes of information use and the two focus modes, we can identify several fundamentally different decision styles. The Figure below shows these styles and also describes the key attributes of each of the styles. Experience indicates an individual will use one or two of these styles more frequently than the others. However, they probably will use the others also on occasion, even if only very rarely.
Each Decision Style has its own merits depending on the circumstances. All organizations have a mix of these styles. Successful ones make the best use of the strengths of each style. The Dynamics Decision Style Model gives team members a framework and language to discuss their similarities and differences. It provides the team a means to recognize the value of others' styles. The result is greater cohesion, trust and team effectiveness.