Not all decisions have major consequences or even require a lot of thought. For example, before you come to class, you make simple and habitual decisions such as what to wear, what to eat, and which route to take as you go to and from home and school. You probably do not spend much time on these mundane decisions. These types of straightforward decisions are termed programmed decisions; these are decisions that occur frequently enough that we develop an automated response to them. The automated response we use to make these decisions is called the decision rule. For example, many restaurants face customer complaints as a routine part of doing business. Because this is a recurring problem for restaurants, it may be regarded as a programmed decision. To deal with this problem, the restaurant might have a policy stating that every time they receive a valid customer complaint, the customer should receive a free dessert, which represents a decision rule. Making strategic, tactical, and operational decisions is an integral part of the planning function in the P-O-L-C (planning-organizing-leading-controlling) model.
However, decisions that are unique and important require conscious thinking, information gathering, and careful consideration of alternatives. These are called nonprogrammed decisions. For example, in 2005, McDonald’s became aware of a need to respond to growing customer concerns regarding foods high in fat and calories. This is a nonprogrammed decision because for several decades, customers of fast-food restaurants were more concerned with the taste and price of the food, rather than the healthiness. In response, McDonald’s decided to offer healthier alternatives, such as substituting apple slices in Happy Meals for French fries and discontinuing the use of trans fats. A crisis situation also constitutes a nonprogrammed decision for companies. For example, the leadership of Nutrorim was facing a tough decision. They had recently introduced a new product, ChargeUp with Lipitrene, an improved version of their popular sports drink powder, ChargeUp. But a phone call came from a state health department to inform them that several cases of gastrointestinal distress had been reported after people consumed the new product. Nutrorim decided to recall ChargeUp with Lipitrene immediately. Two weeks later, it became clear that the gastrointestinal problems were unrelated to ChargeUp with Lipitrene. However, the damage to the brand and to the balance sheets was already done. This unfortunate decision caused Nutrorim to rethink the way decisions were made under pressure so that they now gather information to make informed choices even when time is of the essence.1Garvin, D. A. (2006, January). All the wrong moves. Harvard Business Review, 18–23.
Decision making can also be classified into three categories based on the level at which they occur. Strategic decisions set the course of organization. Tactical decisions are decisions about how things will get done. Finally, operational decisions are decisions that employees make each day to run the organization. For example, recall the restaurant that routinely offers a free dessert when a customer complaint is received. The owner of the restaurant made a strategic decision to have great customer service. The manager of the restaurant implemented the free dessert policy as a way to handle customer complaints, which is a tactical decision. And, the servers at the restaurant are making individual decisions each day evaluating whether each customer complaint received is legitimate to warrant a free dessert.
Management 2020 text remixed from multiple sources under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. View a complete list of original sources.