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What Are Decision Styles? Part 2

Four Basic Styles

By combining the two modes of information use and the two focus modes, several fundamentally different decision styles can be identified. These styles are shown in Figure 3, which also identifies key attributes of each style. Generally speaking, an individual will tend to use one or two of these styles more frequently than the others, and probably will use the others too, but less frequently. Let's take a quick look at each of the styles.

The Decisive Style

Decisive is a satisficing and uni-
focus style. When using the
Decisive style, people use a
minimum amount of information
to rapidly come to a clear decision
about a course of action. They
value action, speed, efficiency
and consistency. People who use
this style frequently tend to stick
to a particular course of action. Once a decision is made, they put
it into action and move on to the
next decision. Re-evaluating
decisions and changing one's mind occurs seldom. In dealing with other people, the key characteristics on the Decisive style are honesty, clarity, and loyalty. The Decisive style puts a premium on brevity: one says what one has to say with a minimum of words. Life is too short to beat around the bush. Time is precious! Wasting time is a punishable offense!

The Flexible Style

Flexible is a satisficing, multi-focus style. Like the Decisive, the Flexible moves fast. But, here the emphasis is on adaptability. The Flexible way of thinking is very fluid. Any piece of information is seen as having several interpretations and implications. Faced with a problem requiring action, a person working in the Flexible mode will rapidly identify a line of attack; if it appears not to be working, they quickly will shift to a different course of action. At any moment, the Flexible might drop one tactic in favor of another, often at a moment’s notice when the situation appears to be shifting.Interpersonally, a person whose style is primarily Flexible is likely to be very engaging and supportive. When in the Flexible mode, effort will be made to keep things casual and open and to keep people feeling good, often with a liberal dose of humor. Conflict is something to avoid. There’s no point in getting into an argument or debate when so many choices are available and the situation is bound to change anyway. The motto of the Flexible style is, “Hey – if it doesn’t work, we’ll just try something else!”

The Hierarchic Style

The Hierarchic way of thinking is the antithesis of the Flexible style. The Hierarchic is a maximizing and uni-focus mode of thinking and deciding. People whose styles are mainly Hierarchic do not rush to judgment. Their views and decisions are carefully considered and based on lots of information and analysis. In reaching a final decision, a serious effort is made to arrive at the best possible course of action for the situation at hand. Decision-making and planning converge and overlap in the Hierarchic style. So, decisions include logic, rationale, and detailed specifications. A good decision is one that will stand the test of time.Interpersonally, when working in the Hierarchic mode, a person can be counted on to present lots of information, and to expect others to be able to do the same. So, when dealing with someone whose style is mainly Hierarchic, you can have your views, your analysis, and your decisions challenged. One should be able to defend one’s decisions. Decision-making is serious business and there isn’t much joking around or taking distracting digressions. Because decisions should stand the test of time, there should be no rushing to judgment. It’s important to take whatever time and use whatever resources are necessary to arrive at a high quality decision. From the Hierarchic perspective, if something isn’t worth doing the right way, then it probably isn’t worth doing at all!

The Integrative Style

Whereas, people whose styles are mainly Hierarchic tend to stick with a course of action or method that produces high quality results, modifying it only to tune it up a bit, people whose styles are mainly Integrative can be counted on to never do the same thing the same way twice. As a maximizing, multi-focused way of thinking and deciding, the Integrative style involves a lot of thinking and analyzing prior to reaching decisions. However, the effort is not necessarily to reach a “best decision” – there may be many of those! Instead, the inclination is to see any situation as quite unique and as likewise requiring a unique solution. Therefore, it is part and parcel of the Integrative style to prize innovative and creative solutions. After all, off-the-shelf solutions are not likely to fit problems and situations that are themselves unique. Moreover, the tendency is to frame any situation calling for a decision very broadly and to see it as consisting of multiple parts that overlap, perhaps, with other, related situations. Consequently, decisions and courses of action also should be broadly defined and should consist of multiple courses of action. No one, narrow, course of action will do.Interpersonally, people working in the Integrative mode appreciate diverse and divergent ideas – even ideas or points of view that differ considerably from those of their own. Diversity makes life interesting! So, when working with others, Integrative- thinking people like lots of input and are quite happy to patiently explore a whole range of points of view before arriving at any conclusion. They encourage input and participation. Decisions that are taken ultimately combine the input of many and are not likely to reflect the input, analyses or preferences of any one person. Digressions that may irritate others are welcomed or, at the very minimum, patiently tolerated – they may yield a new insight or a creative new idea. Viewed from the Integrative perspective, decision-making is not an event; it is a process – a process that should be stimulating, engaging and fun. Although, Integratives may value efficiency, quality, and adaptability, these considerations tend to pale in significance compared to the importance that they attach to creativity and exploration. Methods and plans are never fixed or final. Why? Because no two situations are the same, and because situations change, says the Integrative.

Once Again: No Best Style

None of the styles we just described is better or worse than any of the other styles in an absolute sense. There is no Superman style here, nor is there a Failure style among the four. Each of the decision styles has its own strengths and weaknesses "built-in," so to speak. In general, the Decisive and Flexible styles have the edge when things have to be done now, particularly when the issues that must be considered are relatively simple and clear.The Hierarchic, Integrative and Systemic (a hybrid pattern) styles excel when problems are complex and decisions will have costly, long-term consequences.The Decisive and Hierarchic styles have the advantage in highly structured or regulated situations, where experimentation or exploration cannot or will not be tolerated. But, on the other hand, the Flexible and Integrative styles are superior in highly changeable situations where there is a lot of new territory to be covered.

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