Transforming the Rational Decision Making Process – Part 2

Part 2 – Rational Domain Bottlenecks
But things don’t always go smoothly in achieving results. Bottlenecks are blockages or distortions that occur in the in the transitions between the external world and the internal world. These can delay or block the achievement of desired results.

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Figure 3 – Rational Decision Making Process – Bottlenecks

As shown in Figure 3, there are four locations where bottlenecks can occur:

1. Initiation bottleneck
2. Depiction bottleneck
3. Enactment bottleneck
4. Review bottleneck

Initiation bottlenecks occur when the purpose is unclear or unknown. Is what appears to be the problem actually a symptom of the problem?

Lewis Carroll describes the situation well in Alice in Wonderland:

“Excuse me, Sir,” Alice asks. “Could you tell me which road to take?”
Wisely, the caterpillar asks, “Where are you going?” Somewhat troubled, Alice replies, “Oh, I don’t know where I am going, Sir.”
“Well,” replied the caterpillar, “if you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.”

Depiction bottlenecks occur when there is a breakdown or distortion in the translation of external events, announcements, stories, threats, opinions, and intentions of others into our depictions of what is really happening external to us.
Some of the common depiction bottlenecks we can often observe taking place in organisations are:
• Taking shortcuts (“Ask no questions and . . .“)
• Arrogance or prejudice (“I already have the answers”)
• Ignoring unpleasant news (“I hear no evil!”)

Enactment bottlenecks occur when there is a breakdown or distortion in the transition from our internal world of intentions into actions in the external world. Some examples of enactment bottlenecks are:
• Ego and false logic (“I’ll do it my way!”)
• Copying others (“They must know what they’re doing!”)
• Procrastination (“If I leave it, the problem might go away!”)
• No decision (“The problem/opportunity has gone away!”)

Deborah Sawyer refers to these most common bottlenecks as “the seven deadly sins of decision making”.

Other enactment bottlenecks that affect the integrity of information outputs include misinformation, spin and acquiesce (especially by subordinates).

Review bottlenecks prevent learning from the results that have been achieved – success or failure. It requires reflection and is frequently ignored because of time constraints. In perfecting the incandescent bulb, Edison is supposed to have said, “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Taking shortcuts is a major cause of decision failures, with excess of ego responsible for at least a third of failures according to the research by Paul Nutt. Other enactment bottlenecks that affect the integrity of information outputs include misinformation, spin and acquiesce (especially by subordinates).

Cognitive scientist Dr Randall Whitaker suggests the depiction bottleneck is the most critical one as “deficiencies in navigating through this bottleneck will likely propagate downstream, practically ensuring deficiency at the enactment bottleneck.”

Only by understanding what’s behind the bottlenecks to effective decision making can we hope to eliminate them and in so doing make wise decisions.

Continue to Part 3 – The Relational Domain

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