Assess, Collect, Deliberate ~ I go with my gut
--> February 2020 ~ Some ideas from a paper I was writing last year while in grad school studying Leadership and Decision-Making.
How much does a leader need to know before making a decision? This is the key consideration of Paul J. Quirk’s Presidential Competence, and it speaks to the fundamental role of knowledge when a decision needs to be made. Indeed, a decision cannot be made without at least some knowledge.
The nature and level of information required to make a decision differs depending on which approach a leader uses to gather knowledge. For example, Lindblom describes the extent to which leaders rely on knowledge by comparing the Rational-Comprehensive (Root) and Successive Limited Comparison (Branch) methods. The Root approach allows leaders to analyze factors surrounding a decision comprehensively because “theory is often heavily relied upon” (Lindblom 81). Its foundations in established knowledge makes the Root very valuable to the decision-maker, but Etzioni argues it's a bit “incrementalist," a method maddeningly limiting because it assumes that “values and facts, means and ends, can be clearly distinguished” (Etzioni 386).
Because the existing bed of knowledge is diluted with the values and objectives that may not align with the current times, it’s questionable to make decisions based solely on precedent. While driving incremental change may make “the most of available knowledge” (386), it may ultimately drive decision-makers off-course in reaching long-term goals. This explains why consensus plays such a vital role in shaping leaders’ decisions. It is easier to find agreement between two bodies when addressing a small change that is familiar (for example, voting on adjustments to an annual budget) than to get bipartisan backing for a completely new idea. It could be said that leaders who use related precedent (existing knowledge) to make incremental decisions "get a lot done," or at least they can check plenty of boxes when it comes time for an election. But the impact of these checkbox, incremental decisions can only be measured over time. If leaders too often make decisions based entirely off past decisions, “decisions so reached would...reflect the interests of the most powerful,” (Lindblom 86).
So knowledge is the principle guiding force to almost any level of decision-making, but an individual leader’s approach to applying their knowledge can vary widely. Lindblom notes early in “The Science of Muddling Through” that even if leaders had “an agreed set of values, objectives, and constraints” as well as “an agreed ranking of [them], their marginal values in actual choice situations would be impossible to formulate,” (82). I may be oversimplifying, but I think this is saying that the minutia involved in actual decision-making requires more context and circumstances than perhaps these approaches allow.
According to Etzioni, the test of a "good theory" is decision-makers agreement on the theory itself (387). While incremental changes are more easily accomplished due to the nature of consensus, without also making fundamental changes, “incremental decision-making amounts to... action without direction,” (388).
I like to go with my gut ~
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Amitai Etzioni. “Mixed Scanning: A ‘Third’ Approach to Decision-Making.” Public Administration Review (December 1967) pp. 385-392.
Charles E. Lindblom. “The Science of ‘Muddling Through’.” Public Administration Review, Vol. 19. No. 2 (Spring 1959) pp. 79-88.
Paul J. Quirk. “Presidential Competence.” The Presidency and the Political System, 10th Edition (2014) pp. 134-166.