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Management is a force multiplier.

Through the hands of others, managers can accomplish the


work of ten, twenty, or hundreds of people. If managers are righteous and true and know
what they are doing, the project has an excellent chance of experiencing prosperity and
success. If managers are clueless or evil, darkness can descend upon their project and
minions. It is important here to understand that managers here mean the people really in
charge. A figurehead manager being manipulated and ordered by others is mostly
unimportant to the success of the project. It is the person ultimately in charge who determines
success or failure.

Configuration Management

Configuration management and associated processes should be designed to help the


developers achieve robust and repeatable results without getting in their way. Prior to starting
a new project the marketplace should be surveyed to see if new and better tools have come
available. Rebuilding and linking all source modules might have worked when a software
project consisted of 50 files, but it might be much better to consolidate subsystems into
separately managed libraries when thousands of files go into a project. Never be afraid to
creatively review processes and approaches for possible improvements

Directing and Controlling

Directing and controlling are two essential aspects of management that impact on the
functions of responsibility, authority, and delegation. Responsibility is the obligation to
execute functions or work that is divided among available personnel. Authority is the power
to decide, to command, and to perform. The traditional origin of authority implies that it is
obtained from high levels of management within the formal organization and transmitted on
to lower levels. Today, informal authority also exists within the organization and generates
upward instead of downward. It may or may not follow the formal structure of the
organization. Acceptance theory states that authority exists only when subordinates accept
commands as authoritative, thus recognizing the importance of individual perception
regarding power within the organization. The power of authority can be derived from office
(formal boss), knowledge (the expert), and character (earned respect). Delegation is the
distribution of responsibility and authority within an organization, or the decentralization of
decision making. Management effectiveness requires that authority be delegated from
superior to subordinate. Not to delegate should be considered a management failure.

THE MANAGERIAL ROLE IN DECISION MAKING

It is often said that managers are paid to make decisions and their subordinates are paid to
implement them. While this statement is an oversimplification in the professional work
environment, it is, at least, partially true. Professionals may make valuable inputs into the
decision making process and/or they may actually determine particular choices but the
ultimate responsibility for decision outcomes rests with their managers. In fact, the number of
high-quality, timely managerial decisions in many instances determines promotional
opportunities and ultimate career level for the manager.

Professionals holding line management positions need to be aware of their responsibility for
decision making and make sure they have the personal qualities to feel good about making
decisions. Although professional subordinates can and do offer valuable input, the line
manager still has final accountability for decision outcomes.

THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

A decision is the selection of the preferred course of action from two or more alternatives.
The decision-making process may be the result of hunch or “gut feelings,” or may be based
on a scientific approach. This latter approach considers a clear understanding of goals,
comparative alternatives, and consistent priorities.

The decision-making environment has two extremes: decision making under known
conditions, and decision making under uncertain conditions. The amount of risk associated
with the decision depends on the amount of uncertainty, namely, risk increases with
uncertainty. Many decisions are made with inherent conflict concerning goals.

Many decisions require an acceptable solution to a problem. As with the selection of the
“best” alternative, there is usually more than one acceptable solution to any given problem.
The initial approach to problem solving is usually undertaken within the framework of one’s
own experience. Other approaches include the experience of others, analytical techniques, or
a combination of two or more of these approaches.

An important point concerning the decision-making process is that judgement appears to


improve with experience. While most researchers and practicing managers agree with this, it
should be remembered that innate ability is also required. Good managers should profit from
their mistakes and from their successes.

Basic Steps in Systems Analysis

The systems analysis methodology for decision making is composed of the following basic
steps:

1. Define the problem

2. Define the objectives

3. Define the alternatives

4. Make assumptions concerning the system

5. Define the constraints

6. Define the criteria

7. Collect the data

8. Build the model

9. Evaluate the alternatives.


TEAM DECISION MAKING AND SOME COMMON MISTAKES

Decision Making in Teams

Making good decisions is always a high priority of management. In many cases the “best”
decision alternative is selected by a multifunctional group or team with varied experiences.
Luebbe and Snavely suggest the following steps:5

1. Identify the problem

2. Understand the current state

3. Analyze the causes of the present state

4. Establish countermeasures, if required

5. Check the results

6. Standardize the results

7. Take necessary steps to follow-up.

Good team decision-making is characterized by the following:

1. Good support by all members of the team

2. Decisions are based on facts and data

3. Decisions are validated by experience

4. Decisions are in keeping with the view of future outcomes

5. Decisions meet deadlines and take into consideration important people

and information.
Some Common Mistakes in Decision Making

It is almost impossible to do anything without some error or mistake. Hutchins has identified
a number of common mistakes in decision-making.

1. Deciding on an unrealistic implementation schedule. The first group that must be sold on
the implementation of a project is management. In many cases, the intention is to tell the truth
when it is too late to back out. In such cases it is impossible to build trust between managers
and users. Thus, it is very important to decide on realistic schedules.

2. Buying the wrong system. A perfect system is impossible to achieve and changes must be
done to accommodate the operation. An important fact is that good people can make a poor
system work, but the reverse is not always true.

3. Failure to track vendor progress (if sub-contracting is involved). It is important to track


the vendor’s progress before making decisions and an efficient way of doing this is insisting
on defined schedules with tangible deliverables and due dates.

4. Failure to develop a contingency plan. Managers should always decide on a contingency


plan. When the new system fails to work as planned there should be an alternative plan of
action. It is the manager’s duty to anticipate anddecide on contingency plans for everything
that could go wrong and keep them updated at all times.

5. Overselling the system to the user. It is important to realize that a company would work
better because users make it work better, and not because the company is making it work
better. Thus decision making in view of efficient functioning of a company is a major
responsibility of a manager.

6. Inadequate training. Training is an ongoing process that must change and mature with the
employees as they change and mature.

7. Failure to evaluate preliminary results. This is an important step to do before any final
decision making is done. Before deciding on new ventures and investments, it is the
manager’s duty to evaluate the results of the investigation and survey the existing system.
CONFLICT IN THE PROFESSIONAL WORK ENVIRONMENT

Conflict is a part of life, because each human thinks differently and has different
ideas. Each individual looks at goals and relationships differently. Every individual has their
own timetable, and is their own unique being. In addition to each person being unique,
everyone has some dependency on others to complete their own goals. The interaction
between multiple unique beings lends itself to conflict.

In most organizations, it is necessary to allow conflict to occur but it is just as


necessary to implement a management style that positively deals with the underlying
problem, if one exists. Conflict can positively affect decision-making processes by allowing
for the integration of multiple points of view. For advancement conflict is necessary, but
when conflict becomes dysfunctional, productivity of the people involved is reduced, which
is undesirable for any organization.

When an individual or group finds its goal-directed activities are being blocked by
other individuals, groups, or coalitions conflict occurs. Early views of conflict in
organizations were inherently negative and conflict was seen as a potential threat to overall
effectiveness.1 Many of these negative views are related to the additional burdens placed on
communication and ensuring stress that results from dysfunctional conflict. All conflict
however, is not dysfunctional and managers are now becoming increasingly aware of positive
outcomes that may be frequently associated with conflict. Among these are:

1. Conflict may improve decision making, i.e., force upper-level managers to make difficult
personnel replacement decisions that are needed but would not otherwise be made.

2. Conflict may force top management to take a more critical view of the organization and, as
a consequence, needed strategic change is more likely to occur.

3. Conflict can cause marginal employees to leave the organization. As more productive
workers gain control of larger amounts of resources, less productive workers are encouraged
to change their direction or job and the firm is strengthened.
4. Some conflict contributes to a more interesting work environment.

5. Conflict may be an important motivational force that results in professionals seeking


additional training and development in order to upgrade skills to remain or become more
competitive.

TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE CONFLICT

As with so many issues in management, the basic means used to resolve conflict depend on
the situation. Miles described several conflict resolution strategies that are particularly
applicable to the professional work environment as follows:

1. Alter the context and/or relationships. Changing relationships can reduce conflict. For
example, if two professionals are fighting about jurisdiction over specific tasks, the manager
may be able to separate either the tasks or the two employees, thereby reducing the conflict
.
2. Alter the issues in dispute. In using this approach the manager’s objective is to make the
issues less personal to the parties involved. One way to accomplish this is to help employees
focus on more important goals (superordinate) for the organization. For example, the
manager of a sports team can show that winning the championship is most beneficial and
important to all parties involved. Since existing interpersonal conflict is interfering with the
attainment of this important goal, it is in the interest of each player to cooperate and resolve
it. Professionals as well as other employee groups are likely to cooperate if cooperation is
seen as promoting their own interests.

3. Change the individuals involved. Of course conflict is often resolved when one or more of
the conflicting parties is removed from the situation, preferably through transfer. However, if
their attitude and/or performance is clearly detrimental to the organization, discharge may be
appropriate. Although these alternatives are difficult to follow, they send clear messages to
other professionals in the work group about how conflict is handled.

Conflict can be both positive and negative and it is more appropriate for leaders of
professionals to manage it rather than attempt to eliminate it. Conflict can improve the
organization by encouraging better decisions, making work more interesting and causing
marginal performers to leave the organization. Several tips have been offered to more
effectively manage conflict to help attain these benefits. However, intense conflict can have a
very negative impact on professional work performance, particularly through the resulting
stress. Stress often leads to emotional exhaustion and burnout among professionals, which
can result in a deterioration of performance and increases in absenteeism and turnover

Shortening the Schedule

One universally accepted method is to create a project plan with an absurdly short
development schedule. This can be done in many ways. One is to simply state with authority
that there is a limited market window that must be hit. Amazingly, this authoritative premise
happily coexists with the well-known marketing principle that it is rarely the first to market
that ultimately succeeds (think IBM PC or Microsoft Excel). Nevertheless, someone has
somehow determined that a product must get to market by a particular date, or sales of that
product will be compromised. The short schedule is then used to encourage the engineers to
work harder. Unfortunately, short schedules sometimes have the inadvertent consequence of
also motivating the engineers to take silly or high-risk shortcuts. This is especially dangerous
when project managers are not technically adept and can’t readily determine when such
dangerous shortcuts are being taken.

Additional psychological mistakes in decision making have been identified by Hammond,


Keeney, and Raiffa:7

1. Anchoring traps. When considering a decision, the mind gives disproportionate weight to
the first information it receives. Therefore, initial impressions, estimates, and data anchor
follow-on thoughts and judgments. It is very important for a manager to avoid these
situations and be able to properly overcome incorrect weighting of early information.

2. The status-quo trap. Decision makers manifest a strong bias toward alternatives that
perpetuate the status quo. This is because of the desire to protect their own egos from
damage. Breaking from the status quo implies taking action and thus taking responsibility,
which in turn allows criticism and regret. In many cases, sticking to the status quo represents
a safer course of action as it involves lesser psychological risk. It is very important for a
decision maker to avoid falling into this trap.

3. The sunk-cost trap. A decision maker at times may make a choice that would justify
previous choices, although they no longer are valid. Acknowledging a bad decision in public
invites critical comments from colleagues and bosses and can unfavorably impact the
employee. An example is the public admission of poor judgment through firing a low
performer that was hired. In such a case, it might appear psychologically safer to let the
employee stay on, although it only compounds the error. This kind of situation should be
avoided in today’s managerial environment. Clearly decision making requires great
understanding, skill, and care on the part of the manager in order to perform efficiently and
avoid mistakes. Great skills and pressures are involved in enforcing decisions and monitoring
their implementation.

Working Smarter

Challenging engineers to work smarter reinforces the very reason many of them chose their
profession. Rising to this challenge requires some amount of fearlessness on the part of
engineers. Not all feel comfortable going against the status quo or in trying to enhance a
proven design. Some with thick skin have no problem posing difficult questions or alternative
approaches.