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Why your latest management decision failed

When making significant decisions, have you noticed how difficult it is to come to a rational decision, even with a mastery of facts and employing logical thinking? Have you noticed that at every step of the process, there are players who push back, so that even the most obvious decisions become tortured? What’s going on here?

Did you ignore the social space?

According to UMT professor, Dr. J. Davidson Frame, “What’s likely going on is that you haven’t taken into account the decision’s social space.”

Frame, who is author of Framing Decisions: Decision Making that Accounts for Irrationality, People, and Constraints, says that all decisions—big and little, simple and complex—have their social space, and ignoring the social space can lead to nasty surprises.

For example, there are multiple stakeholders who must be recognized—individuals whose needs and wants will be affected by the decision. These people don’t sit passively as they see you making decisions that work against their interests.

You also have multiple decision-makers, each with a different perspective, as well as multiple decision implementers, who, when implementing decisions, may follow a course of action that diverges from the intent of the decision-makers.

The key players in a decision’s social space seldom hold a homogeneous outlook. They have their personal predilections that color their decision preferences.

“Whenever I hear people say, ‘This is what management has decided,’ I chuckle to myself,” says Frame. “In the real world, even with non-controversial decisions, there is a wide range of opinions on how an issue should be handled. While management may post a directive that announces ‘This is our decision,’ there is no assurance that all—or even most—managers fully support the final decision. It is even possible that unhappy losers will work to derail its implementation.”

Accommodate the key players

“When I think about the practice of decision-making, one thing is clear,” Frame says. “Because decisions are made by people for people, people should stand at the center of our understanding of decision-making. That’s why it is important to get a handle on a decision’s social space. Identify the players and their interests. Frame your decisions to accommodate their differing perspectives. Ignore the social space at your peril.”

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