Decision-making is the focal point or rather basis for any public administration. It is the essence that defines management of any organization or administration. In many administrations and organizations, decisions are the clear indicators for action and the precursors to success or failure. The lack of success or failure, in turn shows the need for new decisions. An administration’s outcomes are matched with trajectories set down by the administrative culture and the resources availed to them (Bennis, 23).
Decision-making entails selection of a course of action from amongst alternatives. It is a plural activity in public administration meaning it is a broad-based process encompassing a number of individuals. The decision, according to many pundits, is the commitment of any decision-maker to act, thereby committing the human, material and financial resources of any public administration towards the action goals or objectives. All considerations in any decision-making process by the leadership in a public entity or administration go a long way in identifying a problem. The decisions are usually linked and sequential in the effort of achieving some purpose or goal. This sequence occurs over time where the concurrent events influence the outcome of the decision-making process by public administrators.
This process is vital in any administration and has four major fundamentals: problem definition, information search, choice and evaluation. The first element is the problem definition. Problem definition is pegged on the fact that there are more issues, queries and problems than the administrations have the time or resources to confront. It is worth noting that problems are numerous and attention afforded to them is quite minimal. This brings forth the idea of a policy agenda that will address the attention given to the problems faced by the public administration. The policy agenda will, in turn, ensure as the problem emerges it gains attention. The problem definition enables a problem take shape and gain focus on how best it can be handled.
Information search entails the clarity between problem definition and information. The administration takes time to research and comprehend the qualities of a problem. This learning process is vital as it gives the problem the much needed focus. The focus helps repackage the information search in such a way that the administration can easily understand and formulate ways to come up with efficient decisions.
Choice as the third element is explained as the weighing of options and selection among alternatives that are essential in the decision-making process. It is noteworthy that choices are not overall clear and I scenarios where the clear alternatives are known, the consequences of these actions are poorly comprehended. Preferences and options are rarely a permanent feature in an administrations decision-making process as they are uncommonly clear or constant when dealt or observed over time.
Evaluation, as the last element of the decision-making process, is the process of reconsidering information in the hands of the public administrators. This information is usually looked into anew in the hope of noting changes that may be crucial in establishing criteria for assessment. In the evaluation process if choices are not repeated, the current ones become a guide for future decision (Bennis, 32). The tricky part that defines evaluation is the establishment of criteria for evaluation and avoidance of falling victim to common decision-making problems
The decision-process in Public Administration faces constraints. These constraints are categorized into three limits. The categories are namely: Upper limits of a Decision, Lower Limits of a decision and strategic Limiting Factors. The Upper limits of a decision define how far a decision-maker, taking into account the resources availed to him or her. The lower limits of a decision, on the other hand, define the minimum that must occur for a problem to be worked out. The Strategic Limiting factors, as the third constraint, defines whose presence in the decision-making process is in the right form, at the right form, time and place.
The decision-making process in many public administrations faces individual differences. This plays out between the decision-makers as they embark in the process of making the crucial resolutions. The different ways of thinking manifests in this process, some are logical, some creative et Cetera. There are different styles applied in this process namely directive, conceptual, behavioral and analytical. The directive style is usually employed by individuals who have a low tolerance ambiguity and emphasize on rationality (Kumar, 25). The analytical individuals, on the other hand, accept ambiguity and embrace rationality in the decision-making process. The conceptual style is applied by individuals who tend to be intuitive and can easily accept ambiguity. The individuals that apply behavioral style blend and work well with the rest of decision-makers. The behavioral style individuals embrace uncertainty. It is notable that public managers and administrators approach to decision-making varies according to the nature of the content they are handling. In many instances, the content of the decision determines the number of participants, time and the criteria to be incorporated in this process. Much of the public administration is specifically interested in the content areas that are important and touch on the core interests and operations of the public organization.
Decision makers tend to put emphasis on heuristics, judgmental shortcuts when making or enacting decisions. The heuristics are pegged on availability heuristic, representative heuristic and escalation of commitment (Khan,155). The availability heuristic defines the tendency of the public administrators to support their judgments on information that is readily availed to them. The representative heuristic, on the other hand defines the decision-makers’ ability to evaluate the likelihood of an occurrence by trying to compare it with one already in occurrence. Escalation of commitment, the last judgmental shortcut, is a boosted commitment to a previous decision despite negative feedback. Decision-making can be boosted through improving creativity. The improvement of creativity can through direct instruction where the administration can ask decision-makers to come up with brilliant ways to counter a problem. This is highly effective as it deviates individuals from the normalcy zone helping them explore creative solutions in the process of making decisions. The creativity of decision makers can be amplified through attribute listing. The attribute listing is where qualities of alternatives vital for the decision-making in a public administration are examined fully in order for new ideas to be generated. The creativity is further accentuated by lateral thinking where instead of thinking beginning to end, other ways are explored(Khan,157). This can be starting with the solution and working towards the start of the decision-making process.
There are two key decision-making models in the study of public administration, namely rational and incremental models. The former defines a problem so that it can be separated from other results; the latter accepts a problem that arises in a context that problems are not different from each other. Public policy-makers are mostly constrained from the use of the rational model as it has limitations in terms of time, intellectual capacity, sources of information, resources and their legality or legal mandate. The incremental decision-making model requires a public administration to have a problem that has a high degree of continuity in the available methods for solving problems that have presented themselves. The results of the present policies in incremental decision-making must be at least minimally acceptable so as the marginal changes can be acceptable.
Bennis, Warren. Learning to lead : a workbook on becoming a leader. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.
Khan, Haroon. An introduction to public administration. Lanham, Md: University Press of America, 2008. Print.
Kumar, Raj. Public administration : (problems and prospects. New Delhi: Discovery Publ. House, 2005. Print.