Making decision is, om the one hand, one of the most fastinating mamifestations of biological activity and, on the other hand, a matter of terrifying for the whole of the human race. Althought this activity is both fascinating and awesome, it is difficult to find a satisfactory name for it in any of the common languages. In English we use terms as manager, administrator, executive or simple decision maker. Yet each of these terms fails someone to capture the true significance of the human being. Because we need a label to conduct our discussion, I shall risk choosing the term manager and being to say some things that will generalize on this term beyond its ordinary usage in English.
The manager is the man who decides among alternative choises. He must decide which choise he believes will lead to a certain desired objectives. But his decision is not an abstract one, because it creates a type of reality. The maneger is the man with the magic that enables him to create in the world a state of affairs that would not have occured except for him. We say that the manger is one who has the authority to make such choices. He is also a person who has the responsibility for the choises he has made in the sense that rest of his fellow men may judge wheter he should be rewarded or punished for his choises; he is the person who justifiably is the object of praise or blame.
So broad a description of the manager makes managers of us all. It is a common failing of the labels that language applies to things that they may be generalized to encompass everything, as philosophers have long recognized in the case of such labels as matter and mind. It takes no great sophomoric talent to see that the world is basically matter and that everything could be reduced thereto. Nor does it take any great astuteness to see that everything a human being recognizes any great astuteness to see that everything a human being recognizes as natural reality os the product of some mind or collection of minds. So, too, the label manager may become appropriately applied to practically everything or at least to every human, once we describe the manager as someone having the authority and responsibility for making choises. I am interested in the broad aspect of desicion making, but for present purposes I want to add one more stipulation that makes the label manager less general. This is the stipulation that managerial activity take place witthin a “system”: The manager must concern himself with interrelated parts of a complex arganization of activities, and he is responsible for the effectiveness of the whole system...
But even this further stipulation concerning the use of the label manager permits us to discribe many activities as management. It is true that in history of England and United States, the term management has often been narrowed to mean tha managing of mean the managing of industrial activities especially for the purpose of generating profit for an enterprise. In the connection management is contrasted with labor. In government actievities our use of term manager is often labelled administrator, and the term executive is often used to describe people who are given the legal authority to put into practice the law of the land. All these activities, wheter they be at the level of goverment or industry or education or health, or whatever, have a common groind which we wish to explore. The common ground is the burden of making choises about system improvement and the responsibility of responding to the choises made in a human envirovement in which there is bound to be opposition to what the manager has decided. Thus the head of a labor union, the state legislator. The head of a goverment agency, the foreman of a shop are all managers in our sense. So is a man in his own family a manager; so is the captain of a football team. Probably all of us some time or other in our lifes become managers when, because of oppointment to a committee or because of our political activities, we take on the authority and responsibility of making decisions in complex system. Managing is an activity of which we are all aware, and its consequences concern each one of us.
I said that managers must bear the burden of the burden of the decisison they make. I could have added, in more optimistic tone, that they enjoy the pleasure accompanying to make decisions. And certanly many managers in today`s society do find a great deal of phychic satisfaction in the role they play which society so clearly recognizes as important and which it credits with a great deal of prestige.
Noe managing is a type of behavior, and since it`s a very important type of behavior, you might expect that we know a great deal about it. But we don`t at all. We could also explore the many ways in which managers often think they manage, but observes of their behavior often from them quite radically. The manager is frequently astonished to hear sociologist`s description of his activities, which he believes he himself knows so well, and he resent the inclination on the part of the “detached” scientist to try to describe the activity that he performs.
Imagine an observes carefully trained to study such activities as bees in a hive, or fish in a school, or birds in a flock, and suppose such a student of nature becomes curious about the behavior of judges during a trial. How might such a scientist describe what the jugde actually does? He might learn a little bit from some of the reflective judges, and perhaps a little bit more from the sociologist and other scientists who have attempted to describe legal behavior, but he would find that most of the activity remains a huge to the whole of humanity-a mystery that no one has ever felt inclined to investigate in detail.
The whole activity of managing, importrant as it is for the human race, is still largely an unknow aspect of the natural world. When man detaches himself and tries to observe what kind of living animal he is, finds that he knows very little about the things most important to him and precious little about his role as a decision maker Few managers are capable of describing how they reach their decision in a way that someone else can understand; few can tell us how they feel about the decisions once they have been made. Of course, despite our ignorance about managerial phenomena, a great deal is written on the subject in popular magazines and managerial journals. It appears that the less we know about subject, the more we are inclined to write extensively about it with great cinviction. Some writings describe the variuos rituals folowed in organizations proir and posterior to the actual managerial decision. But most of these description pay little attention to the very puzzling question of when a decision actually occured and who made it. A great deal is said about committee deliberations and other aspect of organizational rationality that go into the making of a decision, and the many checks and control that are exerted to determine whether the decisions have been made properly. Much attention is paid to these aspect of organizational decision making, because they show up on the surface, so to speak. But the facts that a committee deliberated for three hours and then a decision emerged do not tell us who made the decision, how it was or when it was made. It might be added that the verbal assertion of the committee often do not tell us what decision is made.
So there is a great mystery of the natural world: the who, when, how, and what of man`s decision making.
But even if we were to succeed in discovering a great deal more than we have about management, the result would be at best descriptive. It would be merely the background of the basic problem before us, namely, the question of how the manager should decide.
Am I right in claiming that we know so little about management? After all, most of us are quite willing, even eager, to prise and complain. We don`t hesitate to say that some men are better managers than others. We are constantly criticizing our political leaders. Biographers are accustomed to choose the most “outstanding” leaders of the age as the subject of their texts. These leaders may be great political leaders, leaders of industry, leaders of social movement, of religion, and so on. What is the quality these men of success have that less successful colleagues lack? Since we believe we can identify “successful” leaders, surely we also believe we know a great deal about what a manager should decide. For example, in the case of the President of the United States, we are told in our school-boy text that we can readily recognize that some of these Presidents were “great” and some of them far from great. What is the quality of greatness that we are led to ascribe to some of these presidents?
A ready answer is at hand-the succesful and great Presidents were those who made decisions that today we clearly recognize to be correct, and those who made these decions in the face of severe opposition. We are led to believe that the activity of great presidents is a marvelous example of succesful decisin making in large complex systems.
But the skeptics among us will find this answer quite unsatisfactory as an explanation of what constites greatness in a Pesident. In the first place, history has no record of what would have happened had the opposition`s point of view succeeded or if serious modifications had been made in the choises of the so-called great Presidents. What if the Union had not been saved, or or our independence declared? History seems only to have recorded the episodes that followed upon the particular decision that was made and does vot provide us with an analysis of event that might have occured if an alternative had been adopted.
More curios still is the implict that ass