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Understanding decision problem structuring by executives

This thesis reports on an investigation undertaken to determine the nature of the decision problem structuring behaviour of executives and the determinants of that behaviour. Decision problem structuring is concerned with those activities that translate an identified decision problem into a form suitable for the making of a choice. Activities commonly associated with the structuring of decision problems include the defining of objectives, the generation of alternatives, and the collection of relevant supporting information. Utilising a multiple case study approach, sixteen Chief Executive Officers or General Managers of medium to large (largest had 2800 employees) organisations, operating within a confined geographical region of New Zealand, were questioned on their decision problem structuring behaviour. Participants were asked to describe, in detail, the processes they followed in structuring decision problems, along with what they felt caused them to act as they did. In addition to the direct communication between the researcher and the participant, each executive completed a supplementary questionnaire and undertook a computer based cognitive style analysis test (the latter two for purposes of triangulation). Raw interview data was integrated with that from the other data sources (such as the questionnaire) through use of an adaptation of the data analysis aspects of the grounded theory approach. Within the context of the study, described decision structuring behaviour was found to be more closely aligned with that of wider descriptive theory than any of the existing prescribed problem structuring methods. Described behaviour regularly exhibited the use of prior decision-making experiences, decision situations where an identified solution initiated the decision, and the existence of Satisficing behaviour. The most evident structuring process comprised the defining of objectives and the generating of alternatives, occurring in an iterative and cyclical manner. These activities were supported, where required, by the gathering of information. It was observed that the contextual effects of time, limited finance, level of information and political interference played a significant part in not just the problem structuring activities, but they were also found to affect the decision-maker’s perception of the problem before any structuring occurred. As a result, the actual decision problem state and the perceived problem state often differed. Similarly, the executive decision-maker was also found to influence the perception of the problem and the subsequent activities that were carried out in structuring it. The executive’s experience, their understanding of decision problem structuring, and their overall confidence were found to be influential.
Type of thesis
Dillon, S. M. (2002). Understanding decision problem structuring by executives (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14020
The University of Waikato
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