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Blog Post Series: Symptoms of Organizational Dysfunction

Updated: May 4

A logo with text "Symptoms of Organization Dysfunctions - Complicated Decision-Making"

Complicated Decision-making

In our last article, we started the conversation about the symptoms of organizational dysfunctions. This week, we will examine the first symptom of dysfunctions, which is complicated decision-making. Every day, numerous decisions are made at different levels within an organization, and the more complicated a system, the more complicated decision-making becomes.

Before getting into the impact of organizational dysfunction on decision-making, let us briefly describe what decision-making means. 

Decision-making is a process of selecting a course of action among several alternatives to achieve the best results. The decision-making process involves considering financial, operational, human, and strategic factors, among other factors, to make a decision. The seven steps to decision-making are: identify the decision, gather information, identify alternatives, weigh the evidence, choose among alternatives, take action, and review the decision. It is easier to go through these steps when all the organizational factors are clarified and clearly aligned. 

Organizational dysfunctions slow down decision-making when an organization’s members have to consider too many variables before making decisions. Here is an example of how organizational dysfunction can cripple what should be a simple decision:

James is a web designer who was contracted to design a new website for RIGHT UP HERE, INC. because the current website did not effectively capture the organizational programs and how they are related. RIGHT UP HERE INC. has eight major program segments that operate independently under different vice presidents, licenses, and names. Each program member has a different understanding of how the organizational programs are related and how they can work together because they see one another as competitors rather than collaborators. Every time James meets with the representative of each program, new information emerges that slows down the design process. He also must contend with the number of opinions and suggestions that he has been receiving from multiple sources. It’s been six months since the board approved the design of the new website, but no progress has been made. 

Analyzing the scenario above using the seven steps to effective decision-making, the process stalled at the information-gathering stage.  Breaking down the example, here are the organizational dysfunctions that complicated the decision-making process:

  1. Lack of clear organizational direction and strategy. The organization creates important programs that meet the needs of its service recipients but lacks direction on how to consolidate and communicate its offerings. The lack of a clear strategy and direction at any level within the organization complicates decision-making even at the lowest level.

  2. Silos. The lack of organizational direction on the relationships among the programs isolates them and prevents communication, collaboration, trust, and interpersonal relationships. Silos also create a siege mentality, duplication, redundancy, competition, and resentment. Each program area does not understand how it complements the others. Every member of each program area is loyal to their program and views other programs within the organization as a competitor. Each program area will start looking out for itself rather than the larger organization.

  3. Lack of access to information. Silos prevent access to information because individuals only have access to the information that immediately affects their work areas. Each program has a myopic view of organizational issues and strategy. This dysfunction is demonstrated in the example above as individuals provide information that is relevant to them and not others.

Complicated decision-making leads to waste of resources, waste of time, employee turnover, and poor organizational outcomes. Decision-making is an everyday activity in organizations that is difficult for many reasons, and dysfunctions will only make it more difficult. Leaders are paid to make decisions, and their jobs become harder when they have to deal with unwanted barriers and distractions created by dysfunctions. 

Ayodeji is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant at DeYoung Consulting Services, an organizational development and talent management firm Ayodeji specializes in leadership development, coaching, strategic planning, and change management. He holds a Doctor of Education in Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Ayodeji is also the author of the book, Caring: The Soul of Leadership, which is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

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