Quality of the Decision-Making Process

Decision making in a high-performance work system goes beyond making good decisions in a productive manner. In the high-performance work system, the decisions need to be right, not just good, and not just quick. In the previous section I described how decisions can be made productively. Both rational, logical ways and emotional, intuitive ways are appropriate in different situations. But decisions also need to be of high quality and effective. The impact of a high-quality “right” and “good” decision is most important for customers and employees.

Mark is a production engineer in the manufacturing operation of an auto parts company. He is the leader of a team of engineers that has been assigned the task of redesigning the air conditioning system for a major model of a customer's line of trucks. He is scheduled to make a presentation to
other team leaders working on other aspects of the transformational work (e.g., drive system, ignition system, entertainment systems) that the company is doing on this truck model.

During the presentation, Mark describes a series of decisions he and his team made to advance their work, such as hiring (a year ago) several engineers who are experts in automotive air conditioning technology and systems. Also during the presentation, Mark is surprised by a barrage of complaints from the other systems engineers that the people he has hired are not communicating with the engineers in their groups; they sometimes “stretch the truth” in technical sessions to inlate their own egos, and they do not collaborate in priority-setting sessions when it is being decided how to share necessary resources from the marketing and purchasing groups. As a result of all this, the overall project is falling behind in cost and schedule and many engineers are refusing to work with Mark's new people. They go on to say that they are making decisions in their project teams without clearly understanding what is happening on the air conditioning team. As a consequence, the overall project is suffering from a lack of productive and high-quality decisions, and customers are going to suffer – indeed, are already suffering.

What is happening to Mark is the same as what happens in many places in many organizations: capable, well-meaning people are reaching decisions that result in wasteful outcomes or in outcomes that are not totally “right,” “positive,” and “high quality.” When this happens, organizations need to go back and rework their decisions for their own beneit and the beneit of customers.

The irst step in developing high-performance work systems that result in a preponderance of right, positive, and high-quality decisions is to ensure that all people in the organization are developing themselves (see part two) as role model leaders. This will go a long way to ensuring that the skills, character attributes, and behaviours of all people are aligned and that everyone is prepared to effectively participate in reaching “right” decisions. Mark saw that there was not enough effective communication or respect for others, nor did the new people place enough value in purposeful behaviour and cross-project collaboration, compared to the more experienced engineers. He surmised that he needed to engage the new employees in the development of their leadership capabilities so that they had the same competency as the rest of the engineers in the organization.

All skills, character attributes, and behaviours (see part two) are important, but Mark saw that the overriding priority in the situation he faced, if he was to improve the ability of his new engineers and turn them into
high-quality decision makers, was to instil in them the character attribute of honesty.

In an organization determined to make right and virtuous decisions, all people must be truthful with one another. This is fundamental. Decisions can be made logically or intuitively, but all the people involved in them must be truthful with one another so that those decisions are made in an honest manner.

Then there is the customer, who expects the decisions reached within supplier organizations to be made honestly. Customers must be able to rely on their suppliers to make high-quality decisions on their behalf. Honesty in this case is the collective truths of all the people in the organization, truths that can be referred to collectively as integrity.

Ethical Decision Making

I have noted that honesty is the key determinant in quality decision making. In terms of relations between the organization and the customer, the measure of honesty is integrity. The customer expects the business organization to be honest in all it says and does; when that is the case, the latter's decisions will be of high quality.

The relationship between the organization's high-performance work systems and society is also based on honesty. Here the decisions are expected to be ethical. That is honesty at the level of principle (see chapter 6). Society at large expects – and in fact demands – that highperformance business organizations perform and make decisions ethically, and it will punish and even terminate the existence of those organizations that do not do so.

Leader-engineers and leader-scientists have a special responsibility to society to provide direction, to act, and to get results in an ethical manner – in other words, to make decisions to do the right things.

In today's world of rapid technological advances – a world relying more and more on technology – leaders-engineers have a vital decision-making role to play. Leader-engineers inluence people to make positive change – to make things better. The developmental leadership model described in this book encourages everyone to learn and develop the capability to lead organizations to achieve continuous improvement and change in harmony with all stakeholders, including society.

Every leader should be prepared to inluence organizational strategies and actions to give life to the following general principles. Role model leader-engineers should be prepared to make decisions and inluence the
decisions made by others in the organization who are guided by these ethical standards.

1. In all project objectives in the organization, give priority to ensuring public safety.

2. Engage in work in the organization that does no harm to individuals or the environment.

3. Inluence business organizations' strategies to create sustainable growth that improves the lives of people.

The national and regional engineering societies and groups that license engineers and so on, cover the same ground as described here, often going beyond, in delineating principles for engineering and scientiic professionals to follow. All of these principles are clear and can provide guidance to the actions of leader-engineers and leader-scientists as they develop and learn to improve the lives of people through ethical decision making.

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