Resistance to rational decision making in organisations…

I was looking at a TED talk from four years ago by Daniel Kahneman when he suddenly said: “There is actually enormous resistance within organizations to implement programmes that would improve rationality in their making decisions”.

Performance Consulting is a process that if used with skill can help our clients to face up to their real problems and design solutions that are guaranteed to be successful compare with their intuitive solutioneering.  So why do internal consultants in HR and L&D have so much trouble countering the dominant culture of solutioneering?  Kahneman can up with a simple answer: “Because it creates difficulties for leadership”.  This makes sense to me.  Managers and leaders see it as their job to make decisions based on their experience.  But “Thinking Fast and Slow” tells us that our intuitive decisions are often biased and wrong.  There are so many pay-offs for solutioneering and managers don’t realise they are doing it:

  • Our human tendency to simply complex problems as one single solution e.g. “we need to train them” and not realise that we have a totally simplifies view of the complex problem presented as a clear solution. (This is why we start with by drawing a system diagram with the client)
  • We can then give the problem to someone else and hold them accountable, “the training must be wrong”. (This is why we work with the client to face up t the real problems and agree joint solutions in partnership)
  • The conspiracy of convenience when everyone (including the solution providers) has an interest in providing easy solutions and quick fixes. (L&D, HR and I.T. are rewarded for providing solutions)

No wonder it is hard to implement a rational problem solving approach such as Performance Consulting.  As internal consultants we need to be brave to face up to this pressure for simplification.  Chris Argyris thought that 60% of organisations current problems are caused by previous solutions.

However, the need to do more with less, gives HR, L&D and I.T. a great opportunity to move from “order taker” to a much more focused business partner who work with the client to diagnose the more complex real needs and implement less but more focused solutions with the business.

If you are interested in discussing inhibitors to rational decision making in organisations please get in touch as I am trying to talk to as many people as possible to research into the main factors and design some ways to overcome them.

Nigel Harrison is a chartered Business Psychologist and author of “How to be a True Business Partner by Performance Consulting

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