Decision making models


Decision making models

All people need to make decisions from time to time. Given limited time in formulating policies and addressing public problems, public administrators must enjoy a certain degree of discretion in planning, revising and implementing public policies. In other words, they must engage in decision-making (Gianakis, 2004). Over the years, many scholars tried to devise decision-making models to account for the policy making process.

Rationality

For a very long time since the discipline of public administration has developed, scholars assume that people make decisions rationally. By rationality, Herbert Simon (1976) means” a style of behaviour that is appropriate to the achievement of given goals, within the limits imposed by given conditions and constraints” (P. 405). However, rationality is still a vague concept. Max Weber refers to rationality as the pursuit of efficiency of achieving a prescribed goal or aim. This rationality is later termed formal rationality. (Gerth and Mills, 1946) Years later, Simon adds two more definitions to rationality. The first one is substantive rationality which refers to the achievement of rational goals and values. The second one is procedural rationality which depends on the procedure to achieve certain goals (Simon, 1982). In the following analysis, rationality refers to all three definitions, although they may sometimes conflict each other.

Facts

According to Gortner (2001), facts are the information and knowledge that the public administrators possess in formulating policies. Facts are important in deciding the appropriate means to take to achieve higher ends. They may not be readily known by administrators but need to be acquired through extensive research and analysis.

Values

Values are internal perceptions on the desirability and priority of one’s actions and choices. (Van Wart, 2004) Besides setting goals for their plans, decision makers make priorities, interpret facts and act upon objective situations according to their values. Besides balancing conflicting values within an individual, government has to weight and balance values embodied in different departments (Van Wart, 1996, 1998).

Means

Means are the instruments to satisfy a higher end (Simon, 1997). Although they are used to achieve a higher end, they are not neutral in value. When policy makers devise their strategies, they choose their means according to their internal values and consequences.

Ends

Ends are the intermediate goals to a more final objective (Simon, 1997). In a means-end hierarchy, the concept of means and ends is relative. An action can be a mean relative to the higher levels in the hierarchy but an end relative to the lower levels. However, in this hierarchy, an action is more value-based when moving upwards in the hierarchy but more fact-based when moving downwards.

Various Types of Decision-making Models

Pure rationality model is the most rational decision-making model because it allows decision-makers to make the best decisions and achieve highest efficiency out of unlimited time, resources and knowledge in generating decisions. It assumes politics-administration dichotomy in which the former identifies goals for the latter to achieve (Gianakis, 2004). However, the incremental model is a less rational model because ends and means are intertwined. Goals are politically feasible and decisions are made by comparing several immediately available alternatives (Lindblom, 2005). The bounded rationality model is less rational than the pure rationality model but more rational than the incremental model. It is defined by Simon as “the achievement of given goals subject to subjective constraints” (Simon, 1982).

1. Evans, E. (2004) Thatcher and Thatcherism, New York : Routledge2. Gerth, H. H., Mills, C. W., (1946) From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press3. Gianakis, G.A. (2004) Decision Making and Managerial Capacity in the Public Sector, In: Holzer, M., Lee, Public Productivity Handbook, New York, Marvel Dekker Inc, P.434. Gortner, H. F. (2001) Values and ethics. In: Cooper, T.L., ed. Handbook of Administrative Ethics. New York: Marvel Dekker.5. Lindblom, C. E. (1959) The science of muddling through. Public Admin. Rev. 19(1):79-886. Lindblom, C.E. (1965) The intelligence of democracy: Decision making through partisan mutual adjustment. New York: Free Press7. Lindblom C.E. (2005) The Science of Muddling Through, In: Richard, J, Stillman, II, Public Administration: Concepts and Cases, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co.8. March, J. G., Olsen, J. P. (1987). Organizational learning and the ambiguity of the past. In: March J. G., Olsen, J. P., eds. Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations. 2nd ed. Bergen, Norway: Universitatsforlaget9. Selten, R. (2002) Bounded Rationality, Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press10. Simon, H.A. (1976) Administrative Behaviour: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations. 3rd ed. New York: Free Press11. Simon, H.A., (1982) Models of Bounded Rationality Volume 2 Behavioural Economics and Business Organization, London, The MIT Press12. Simon, H.A. (1997) Administrative Behaviour, New York: The Free Press


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