Crucial Decision Breakdown

A little more on Irving L. Janis’s work on why competent capable groups focused on some crucial decision end up having a fiasco.

His diagnosis of the what leads to a premature exit from the vigilant problem solving at the feet of arousal. Like the three bears the group fails because it is too hot or too cold. The problem of too cold is a form of organizational blindness. The group fails to appreciate the necessity of additional vigilant problem solving. The overheated organization pops out of it’s vigilant problem solving in a state of emotional panic of one form or another. His observations of real word cases suggest that there are three classes of over reacting: cognitive, affiliative, and self-serving. Digging further in he then enumerates the “personality deficiencies” that trigger these too hot/cold exits from vigilant problem solving.

I. Too Cold

1. Lack of Conscientiousness
2. Lack of openness
3. Cool, calm, detatched, coping style
4. Chronic optomism concerning stablity and low vulnerabity of the organization

II. Too Hot

IIa.Cognitive (i.e. resource limitations)
5. Chronic low self-confidence or sense of low self-efficacy
6. Chronic pessimism concerning the organization’s ability to supply essential resources for solving complicated problems

IIb. Affiliative (i.e. loyality issues)
7. Strong need for social approval
8. Strong neeed for power and status
9. Chronic apprehensiveness about ruthlessness of other powerholders in the organization with supporting beliefes about their readiness to inflict retaliation
10. High dependency on a cohesive group of fellow members (executives)

IIc. Self serving, emotive, egocentric
11. Lack of conscientiousness
12. negativeism or hostility toward the organization
13. Low stress tolerance
14. Lack of percieved control and other components of low personality hardiness
15. Ambivalence toward he organization: it deserves loyality but is weak and vunerable
16. Habitual externalized anger-coping style
17. Chronic hostility toward opponents

He’s observed, it seems entirely credible to me, that each of these four major and 17 minor failure triggers leads to breakdowns of a particular kind. For example if the group becomes all hot and bothered about it’s lack of resources to think thru a critical problem it will respond by selecting a solution that emphasises that aspect of the problem. It will “solve” the problem using simple “rules of thumb” or some other coping mechinism for that kind of scarcity.

Previous post on this: How to have a fiasco.

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