Last edited 04 Nov 2019

Decision maker

Contents

[edit] Introduction

A decision maker (or decider) is a person who makes decisions and therefore has the responsibility to do so. The decision made is usually a result of the decision maker’s preferences, values and beliefs. A person making a decision must usually be committed to it personally and may be required to persuade others of its merits. The term decision maker may also be applied to those responsible for the final purchase decisions within a decision-making unit (DMU).

Without responsibility there is usually no power to make decisions, while power itself dictates responsibility for the choices that are made.

Making a decision usually involves the decision maker having to choose from a number of possible solutions, each of which may or may not guarantee the required outcome. The art of successful decision making usually requires an understanding of the consequences of each available choice. It is usually a process that is either reasoned or intuitive (gut feeling), or a combination of the two. Yet it is possible to make a decision without having at least a sketchy idea of what the outcome is likely to be. But it is also foolish – no better than a blind guess.

Decision making usually involves choosing from two or more alternatives. However, even when there is only one course of action available, a decision is still possible: either to proceed or not to proceed with that particular option.

[edit] Staged decision criteria

Making a decision can involve a number of decision criteria, usually as part of a staged process. An example is the way consumers purchase things. This typically involves:

  • Recognising the need
  • Researching and identifying what is available
  • Evaluating all possible alternatives
  • Choosing from the alternatives
  • Making the purchase.

In making such decisions, it is usually recommended that the decision maker should try to maximise the expected utility that might arise from their choice. In many cases this is done at a subconscious level. A rational being appointing a builder to re-roof a house will necessarily procure what they believe to be the best quality work to ensure a functional, durable roof. This decision is usually expressed in monetary terms: it is unlikely that the lowest-priced roofing quote will yield the best outcome. Therefore, price becomes one of the decision criteria.

Purchasing in business-to-business scenarios is usually part of a complex buying network. The more strategic purchases tend to be made by staff at the more senior levels. In such cases, major decisions may be made by the chief executive officer (CEO), technical director, purchasing director or the procurement manager (buyer); for less significant purchase decisions, the decider might be a junior buyer or member of staff in charge of making purchases at that level.

[edit] Problems for the decision maker

The decision maker may face one or more of the following problems:

  • Not enough information
  • Urgent deadlines
  • Too much information – not seeing the wood for the trees
  • Limited physical or emotional resources
  • Too many people involved – this may result in decision by committee.
  • Vested interests
  • Emotional attachment – prevents objective decisions
  • Indifference to the outcome.

The act of making a decision presupposes that we have free will – that there is nothing in an individual’s physiology, environment or upbringing that determines which decisions they will make. If this were not the case, then humans would be acting like automata.

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