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Decision-making in complex situations - results of German empirical studies.

Key Results

* As a consequence it appears important to develop a system of variables as a framework to establish an empirical theory of decision making.

Determinants of Decision-making Behavior

The scientific approach to a field which is so multi-layered and rich in variables as human decision-making behavior requires first to develop a grid for analysis. It is to concretize "decision-making behavior" and operationalize it for empirical explanation. At the same time, it represents a system of order for the search, depiction, and linking of empirical results.

Decision-making behavior is explained by means of three fundamental determinants and their interaction. These determinants are the problem requiring decision as a task, the decision-maker as the person responsable for the making of the decision, the decision-making process as the reflection of the decision making. "Behavior", "acting", and "problem-solving" are considered synonyms.


Behavior is always directed at coping with a specific problem. Even spontaneous behavior is still of a directional nature since it corresponds to the handling of a situation which requires a solution. Decision-making behavior, thus, is an action directed at solving a problem requiring decision. The motivation for such behavior is rooted in the perception of a problem, in the disturbance of an existing equilibrium. At the same time, it is less the subject matter or the cause of decision -- e.g. personnel, investment, or assortment decisions -- which determines behavior than rather the general characteristics of the problem requiring decision. Such characteristics are

-- the importance of the problem,

-- the complexity of the problem,

-- the urgency of the problem.

Coping with a problem is, however, determined to a high degree by the characteristics of the problem solver. The task, therefore, is to identify those characteristics of the individual which are guiding his/her behavior and to analyze their effects. The task is to identify fundamental personnel-related factors which, depending on their quality, make a different impact upon decision-making behavior. Characteristics of this type which are relevant to behavior are

-- the number of decision makers,

-- the qualities of the decision makers,

-- the preferences of the decision makers.

The perception of the problem requiring decision by the decision makers constitutes the link between these two fundamental determinants of decision-making behavior.

Moreover, empirical research on decision making means the determination of behavioral regularities by means of the analysis of the decision-making process. The course of this process is considered to be the pattern of action of the decision-making behavior. To what extent certain courses of process constitute additional conditions of efficiency is to be left open here (cf. Gzuk 1975).

Decisions are understood as immaterial products of predominantly mental work. Consequently, decision making is seen as a special problem-solving process which requires and is able to be designed. In this context, process characteristics relevant to behavior are

-- the barriers to the decision-making process,

-- the pattern of the course of the decision-making process,

-- the control of the decision-making process.

This provides a grid for analysis and order permitting the analysis of decision-making behavior in its structure of variables:


In view of the topical scope of the field of research, completeness in documenting the findings cannot be achieved. In addition, in terms of depth of explanation, sketches have to replace detailed reporting. Evaluation of the findings in terms of methodic stringency will have to be largely renounced. Orientation and limitation of the analysis of pertinent literature will be done under the particular aspect of the application of the findings in the company. Given the insurmountable amount of original literature which includes that in the Anglo-American language, the analysis will have to be confined to contributions in German. This appears to be acceptable since they feature comprehensively the latest literature in foreign languages. These criteria of selection, together with the topical and methodic restrictions, almost, by necessity, lead to a concentration of contributions from the field of Eberhard Witte and the "real theory" of the enterprise. To him, the foregoing article is dedicated. The methodic and thematic concept of this line of research is, above all, documented in volumes on "Information Behavior in Decision-making Processes" (Witte, ed. 1972: Das Informationsverhalten in Entscheidungsprozessen), "The Utility of Empirical Research" (Witte, ed. 1982: Der praktische Nutzen empirischer Forschung), "Innovative Decision-making Processes" (Witte/Hauschildt/Grun, eds. 1988: Innovative Entscheidungsprozesse), and "On the Way to a Real Theory of the Enterprise" (Hauschildt/Grun, eds. 1992: Auf dem Wege zu einer Realtheorie der Unternehmung).

The Decision Problem

From the perspective of "problem", decision-making behavior is the confrontation with a specific management task. As a combination of all characteristics those management tasks, in their worst cases, are high-quality, extremely complex, and, at the same time, very urgent problems requiring decision. Although such problem situations appear to be dramatic and worth analyzing, they apparently do not play any role in empirical research. This is due to strongly varying causes. On the one hand, such extreme situations (hopefully) are not very likely to occur frequently in reality -- in any case they do not cause any need for research. On the other hand, access to such extreme cases is barred to empirical research: individual case studies fail, because of the low number of such problems requiring decision or for reasons of secrecy. Lab experiments would be unable to handle such a number of variables and the depictability of such situations. Moreover, interviews would have to cope with difficulties of access and distortions due to methods applied. These are further reasons to make the analysis of the three problem-solving characteristics mentioned above appear more fruitful.

The Significance of the Decision Problem

The "significance" of a decision in terms of its relevance or value is not a one-dimensional or objective matter. This makes it even more important to further concretize this characteristic of problems requiring decision. In doing so the term "complexity" will have to be closely defined.

-- In the context of the economic aspect of corporate and private decisions, "significance" is the immediate result of the material resources to be used or tied up in the decision. This dimension particularly relates to purchase prices, costs, investments, and similar categories of monetary value.

-- With reference to duration and the resulting determination of actions caused by decisions, a second, quasi-historical dimension of "significance" becomes manifest: the implications in reach of decisions.

-- Frequently contaminated by aspects of value and reach in reality, but, strictly speaking, independent of them, "significance" comprises still another dimension: the reversibility of decisions, i.e., the possibility to revise actions in case of changes in the situation and/or insight into wrong decisions.

-- To the economic, the temporal, and the instrumental dimension of "significance" finally is added one of personnel: that of being affected by decisions. It refers, on the one hand, to the number of individuals affected by the result of the decision and, on the other hand, to psychological aspects such as emotions and motivation.

Depending on the markedness of one or several of the above developed criteria of relevance, three sufficiently separable decision-making situations may be identified.

Everyday Decisions

Typical situations of this type are decisions as made by consumers when purchasing low-priced daily necessities.

Because of the relatively small amount of mental conflict with the respective objects of choice, decisions, in this case, are labeled as cognitively relieved decisions. Depending on the control mechanisms which substantially determine behavior, a distinction is made between limited, habitualized and impulsive processes. In the first case, the problem is simplified so that only little information is used as a basis of action. With habitualized decisions, routine behavior is in the foreground and the decision maker takes recourse to patterns of action which, in the past, have proven to be successful. Impulsive decisions are mostly unreflected; in the last analysis, action is nothing more than a reaction to key stimuli.

The reference of such problems requiring decision, in terms of company and business administration is the result of the directed influence upon such processes by specific marketing instruments. But decisions of such a nature will not to be discussed here in detail. Instead, further reference is made to the omnibus volume by Meffert/Steffenhagen/Freter (Eds. 1979) on consumer behavior and information and to the publications by Weinberg (1981) and Kroeber-Riel (1990) on consumer behavior.

Management Decsions

Problem situations of this type encompass decisions as made in companies to determine part or all of the product-, personnel-, market-, or finance strategies. Of course, management decisions are not confined to enterprises; yet, the business administrative perspective focuses on company institutions and processes. The validity of the results ought to go beyond the latter. There are now empirically founded investigations based on a critical analysis of purely typological attempts at definition and delineation which prove that management decisions are marked by a relatively clear pattern of characteristics. These investigations assign a high value to significance and particularly to reach but also to complexity in its various aspects (Girgensohn 1979, Hauschildt et al. 1983).

Management decisions require entirely different forms of mental and organizational approaches than everyday decisions (Trenkle 1983). Because of their relevance for the company and business administration, management decisions will be focused on in our further analysis. Because of the very nature of the issue, the results of field research will be in the foreground. It has, however, to be mentioned that, in order to especially improve external validity, laboratory experiments are undertaken in an attempt to implement managerial situations as realistically as possible (Stein 1990).

Political Decisions

All decisions that occur in connection with military, economic, and societal developments are to be assigned to this type of problem-solving situation. Such problems requiring decision are very close to the corporate management decisions of the type described above. Yet, on the one hand, they differ from the latter by their greater bearing, on the other hand, a different logic seems to be applied to such cases. Its characteristics are a far-reaching anonymity of preferences as well as the fact that the ex-ante criteria of an adequate choice of action are unclear, ranging from divergent to conflictive and, above all, difficult to assess or not at all determinable in their quantitatively democratic weight. Often, the "will of the people" becomes evident only as a reaction to political decisions.

Apparently, there is the danger that, despite or simply because of their high mental and procedural demands, political decisions are treated in the same way as cognitively relieved everyday decisions. In addition, there are questions concerning the actual decision maker and aspects of his/her legitimation. This again points to the intertwined nature of the administrative and bureaucratic preparation of the decision, the executive and departmental government work, and the legislative parliamentary decision making (Behrens 1980, Windhoff-Heritier 1980, Sandner 1989).

The Complexity of the Decision Problem

Operationalizing "complexity" encounters the basically same difficulties as the "significance" of decisions.

-- In terms of structure decisions are the more complex, the more functional areas are objectively affected by the issue at stake and/or involved in the decision-making process. This fact is the result of the necessity of paying attention to varying, frequently even conflictive arguments and of the requirement to coordinate content matter and procedure of the problem-solving process.

-- Problems requiring decision are perceived as complex if they constitute first-time confrontations with a specific issue. They are also considered to be innovative or novative decisions. Complexity, at least when perceived subjectively, results from the novelty or even first-time character of the occurrence of a problem. Totally contrary to the everyday-decisions illustrated above, proven patterns of action are missing. There is a lack of knowledge of content matter to solve the given or presumed problem and there is a lack of experience in the procedural handling of the problem-solving process.

-- Closely connected with "novelty" as a cause of complexity, decisions are perceived as being complex when and the more the informational base is insecure. In this case complexity is the result of undefined imaginations and expectations. In such cases the risk of wrong decisions is estimated to be relatively high.

-- Finally, the complexity of decisions depends on the volume of the respective problem. This is the result of the number of alternatives, the quantity and diversity of criteria of evaluation as well as of the quantity of information to be processed mentally. In this case, complexity results from the physical and psychic workload of the decision makers.

In sum total, it can be said that complexity is a central characteristic of management decisions predominantly under discussion here. Complexity is a real phenomenon of decision-making practice; it can be operationalized and measured. Moreover, it may be induced by labexperiment and is gradually dosable. This provides important prerequisites to further empirical analyses of the connections between objective problem quality and subjective problem perception (Hauschildt 1977, Bronner 1990, 1992, Stein 1990).

The Urgency of the Decision Problem

For several reasons the urgency of decisions is examined fundamentally independent from its significance and complexity. Time pressure may come about for very different reasons.

-- On the one hand, time pressure may arise in terms of capacity from insufficient human and/or time resources. Such time pressure may be compensated for or reduced by shifts in capacity. It, thus, constitutes "merely" an organizational problem.

-- Furthermore, time pressure arises from strict deadlines. Exceeding them might result in the decision becoming void or in far-reaching material consequences, e.g. contract penalties due to the delay.

-- Finally, time pressure may arise in psychological terms because the decision makers may be particularly sensitive to time stress and/or the problem conditions and framework of the decision-making situation are considered to be particularly dangerous. In such cases stress relief is possible only to a very limited degree.

From a practical point of view empirical management research in this area is of multiple value: Labor research, psychology and medicine provide numerous and definitely not uniform models of explanation as well as design recommendations for the mastering of stress. Moreover, handling stress is important in the selection and training of managers. Finally, stress-burdened processes require specific measures of support (Bronner 1973, 1982, Girgensohn 1979, Hauschildt et al. 1983, Geissler 1986).

The Decision Maker

By its very nature, decision-making behavior does not depend only on the quality of the respective problem. It depends, to a high degree, also on the personal characteristics of the decision maker. In this context such characteristics as the number of persons, their qualities, and preferences require particular explanation.

The Number of Decision Makers

The number of persons involved in the problem-solving process leads to the distinction between individual decisions and group decisions. The frequently mentioned collective decision will not be treated here individually since the exclusively quantitative analysis of the persons involved in the process does not prove to be a very useful criterion of distinction. Rather than the mere number of decision makers, such aspects as illustrated in the discussion of political decisions should be constituting elements of collectives. From the organizational perspective, collective decisions are considered to be decisions in and between (large) groups under the aspects of the decision-making process.

Individual Decisions

This category is neither of no interest nor are the results pertaining to it irrelevant. Yet, in the decision-making practice in companies, this view of decision making is attributed only little importance. This fact is also reflected in the empirical and predominantly experimental management research. Investigations of individual decision-making behavior are directed mainly at questions of basic research. We will spare here a further analysis of this field of research (Berg 1973, Brockhoff 1979, Petersen 1988, Gemunden 1992).

Group Decisions

A distincly different perspective results form the focus on the number of persons in the research on (social) psychological research on small groups. In it the focus of attention is on questions of optimal group size and the specific performance advantages of groups, always depending on the characteristics of the task and situation. Such investigations fundamentally are not management-oriented; their relevance for management and company is, however, obvious.

Wherever group processes determine behavior, empirical management research will most certainly be well-advised if it adopts hypotheses from outside the field, instruments and findings, with particular care and caution. This literally means conducting process research. But doing so should not result in unjustified fear of other behavioral sciences (Fisch 1991, Elschen 1982).

The Qualities of the Decision Makers

In a similar way as in management research where it is highly disputed, attempts are made to arrive at findings concerning the qualities of successful decision makers. In addition, there are approaches to identify, from a pathological perspective, such characteristics and behavioral patterns based on them which lead to wrong decisions (Dorner 1989, Geissler 1986, Scholl 1992).

From the multitude of presumed determinants of behavior and success of human resources, three categories of characteristics are singled out here and isolated from each other. They are cognitive, motivational, and interactive characteristics.

Cognitive Qualities

The verification that cognitive qualities are effective, results from the fact that decisions are mentally exacting information processing processes. The characteristics of the problem requiring decision, as discussed above, are conveyed to the decision maker via his/her perception. This necessitates adopting, structuring, and assessing of the contents of information which is not always complete, precise, and consistent. Decisions require the coping with complexity, i.e., with a network of facts, expectations, alternatives, and their consequences (Geissler 1986, Hauschildt et al. 1983, Hering 1986, Fink 1987, Dorner 1989, Fisch et al. 1990, Bronner 1990).

Motivational Qualities

When considering cognitive qualities, decisions constitute a considerable mental strain for those involved. Thus, there is the danger that decisions are not perceived, suppressed, underestimated, postponed or abandoned as such. Motivations embody energies that direct actions at set or chosen goals and stabilize them. Motives influence individual and interactive decision-making behavior. This begins with the perception of the problem, during the problem-solving process until the assessment of the quality of the solution: It is generally known that, on the one hand, the so-called level of aspiration incorporates a motivating function and that, on the other hand, this level is based upon the experience of success. In mastering decision-making situations, variables such as motivation to perform, the thematic interest in the problem as well as the involvement gain particular importance (Hering 1986, Bronner 1990, Conrad, 1988).

Interactive Qualities

In addition to the characteristics of problems discussed above, managerial decisions are marked by a devision of labor, communication and a need for consensus. This results in high requirements for an adequate interaction of those involved. Personality characteristics such as a "directive attitude" and "extraversion" become paramount. Interactive faculties may impact upon the process and result of decision making in many ways: they direct the exchange of information; they control the mutual influence upon the decision makers; finally, they shape the way conflicts are being handled in decision-making situations (Schlingmann 1985, Fink 1987, Bronner 1987, 1990).

Preferences of Decision Makers

While the handling of information has been of prime interest so far, the problems of assessment in decision making are now gaining importance. Frequently, information, alternatives and their consequences are so underfined that the insecurity connected with them may eventually be reduced only by an individually or mutually coordinated evaluation. Such meta-decisions may be made consciously or sub-consciously. In both cases they considerably shape the problem-solving process in its procedure and contents. Such preferences are closely linked to the individual's personality in intensity and duration and prove to be very resistant to attempts at influencing them. In this context, values and attitudes as well as goals and levels of aspiration are the major foundations for the formation of preferences.

Values and Attitudes

At this point we want to refrain from a more detailed discussion of the language-and content-related nuances of the concepts of values, appreciation, value-orientation and attitude. We understand values and attitudes as basic behavioral regulatives, i.e., as specific decision-making rules which have a considerable influence especially in objectively or socially complex situations (Gabele et al. 1977, Ulrich et al. 1982, Ulrich et al. 1985, Schroder 1986, Matiaske 1992).

Goals and Levels of Aspiration

Goals are predicates and ideas of a normative character which describe the future state of reality sought and desired by the decision maker or other persons. Levels of aspiration, like goals, are standards for the assessment and control of (decision-making) behavior. Their function of orientation is based upon the previous experience of success, i.e., on often unconscious and, as a rule, non-articulated nominal criteria (Grun 1973, Hamel 1974, Hauschildt 1977, Gemunden 1981).

The Decision-making Process

The handling of decision-making problems by decision makers becomes manifest in a process. Like all processes, problem-solving processes, too, require and consume energy. This holds true for the first confrontation with a problem until its solution by a definitive decision. It is from this perspective that such characteristics as barriers, process patterns and process control stand out as difficulties in the management of energy in decision-making processes.

Barriers in Decision-making Processes

These barriers are understood to be all obstacles to an appropriate decision-making behavior which result from the decision-maker's personality and which impact upon the course of the process. Obstacles which are based upon structure, organization or capacity are left out of consideration. Consequently, we focus on obstacles in terms of perception, determination and capability without, however, underestimating the role of other obstacles.

Barriers to Perception

The mere existance of an objective problem does not suffice to guarantee an adequate solution to a problem. A prerequisite is, rather, that a given problem be perceived in terms of facts and significance of its characteristics. This means that there are fundamental and gradual barriers to perception which impair or may prevent access to an adequate handling of a problem (Schulz 1977, Bronner 1990).

Barriers to Determination

Idealizing assumptions concerning the nature of the homo oeconomicus in combination with the common ideas of the entrepreneur or manager who is always ready to make decisions, are in strong contrast to reality. As a matter of fact, there is a multitude of reasons that raise doubt as to the readiness of individuals to make decisions. Such tendencies to preserve the status quo, to prevent insecurities of future-directed changes and/or not to endanger the cognitive and social equilibrium are by no means confined to individual behavior. They continue to be effective up to the well-known inertia of entire institutions.

It should be noted that barriers to determination and capability may not always be empirically clearly delineated from each other. Therefore, following a separate theoretical discussion of these two obstacles, findings on them will be treated jointly.

Barriers to Capability

Similarly, close in argumentation to the barriers to determination behavioral obstacles may be identified which render the intellectual handling of complex situations difficult. Above all, cognitive qualities as discussed in the analysis of the characteristics of decision makers are decisive here. Their inadequate significance and/or insufficient accumulation in majorities of persons are the causes for a deficient supply of cognitive energy in decision-making processes (Hauschildt et al. 1983, Geissler 1986, Karger 1987).

Patterns in Decision-making Processes

Since long it has become common scientific knowledge that decision making is not a punctual act but a resources-consuming process (Witte 1969, 1980, 1992). Opinions on how decision making proceeds are, however, much less clear and uniform. This holds true first for the nature of identifiable activities or process segments and, second, for the different process patterns. In particular, it is valid under the aspects of the efficiency of alternative forms of process. Statements made in pertinent literature show at least three difficulties.

-- The concepts of the courses of process presented originate from considerably different empirical environments: The spectrum described reaches from individual thinking processes to shared problem solving in organisations.

-- The evidence is heterogenious and often not identifiable: It reaches from merely plausible process models founded on impressions to well-founded ones that may be empirically repeated. The former will be designated here as phase models, the latter as process models.

-- The concepts of the processes do not clearly show whether they refer to factual or to efficient processes.

Phase Models

Based on the critical analysis of a large number of structurally similar phase patterns, Eberhard Witte has exposed these concepts to empirical verification.

The result of the elaborate test was neither a vertification of the presumed process pattern nor an indication of efficiency. Decision-making processes that are marked by the characteristics of managerial decisions and division of labor apparently are subject to other regularities than are expected of phase models (Witte 1968, 1988).

Process Models

Positive results of the above mentioned examination were two design-relevant process models. Their importance lies, above all, in the fact that they provide first concrete indications for the control of complex decisions. On the one hand, the course of activities, divided into ten equally long process intervals, shows a distinct concentration of performance input in the first interval and even more so in the last interval. From this can be concluded that decision-making, regardless of the above mentioned preceding "booster"-requires a considerable energy boost for the take-off of the problem-solving process. The same holds true for a successful conclusion of the process. For the latter, energy has to be allocated in order to bring about the final decisions (Witte 1968, 1988).

On the other hand, the empirical findings show "a relative constancy of the quantitative proportions among the operational types!" (Witte 1988, p. 225), i.e., activities of gaining information, of processing alternatives, of evaluating alternatives and of decision finding are (except for the final time interval) of nearly constant proportions. Controlling such processes requires that all operational types be included resp. admitted during the entire problem-solving process. Other methodic approaches arrive at partly contradicting, partly supplementing results (Greinke 1986, Peterson 1988).

Control in Decision-making Processes

The analysis of decision-making behavior raises questions regarding the optimal supply of energy. So far, considerations focused first on the various barriers causing the need of control. Indications emerged as to the requirement of specific types of energy such as "problem perception", "readiness for problem solving", and "capability for problem solving". The search for course patterns in decision-making processes served the identification of critical stages as points of intervention for a directed control. As a result it can be said: The entire process of handling complexity requires organisation. Directly linked are three further considerations, namely concerning the authority that controls, the form of control and the success of control.

Authority of Control

First of all, it has to be made clear that in institutions there are fixed responsibilities for most tasks, i.e., also for decisions. As a system of regulations the organization covers, like a net, the bulk of emerging problems, or the problems try to find their places as tasks in the organization. This, however, does not always apply to complex, novative decisions. This is so, because the novelty -- first-time occurrence or uniqueness --, often also the complexity (vagueness or undeterminableness) of its occurrence are in conflict with another and common classification. Tasks of this type are (still) lacking a clear reference within the organization. This raises the question: How do institutions react to a confrontation with novative problems, or: What are the characteristics of an organization capable of innovation and evolution?

With his promoter model Eberhard Witte has presented a concept for "organizing innovative decision-making". His empirical examination provided evidence for the existence of two authorities of control that operate on their own initiative: The so-called subject promoter furthers the problem-solving process by means of his expertise, the so-called power promoter supports the continuation of the process by means of his formal authority. In the first case, the exercise of influence serves the overcoming of barriers to capability, in the second case, barriers to determination are reduced. Most frequently, there is the so-called team structure as a personnel synthesis of both suppliers of energy (Witte no year, 1973, 1988).

Forms of Control

Special attention is to be paid to different control patterns which result from the combined action of the two promoters and the concentration on particular aspects through different measures of coordination.

In an experimental analysis of labor-divisional (staff/line) decisions three different types of coordination could be defined: "targeted control" by means of the determination of goals of action, "functional control" by means of instructions for action and "process control" in the form of the process-organizational fixation of duration, sequence and timing of specific problem-solving activities Bronner 1973, 1982).

If "control" is understood as any form of restructuring of decision-making, not only by means of organizational regulation and intervention as sketched above but also by providing methodic support, the scope of examination will be expanded into the direction of decision-making support systems.

In a basic research lab-experiment study the conditions for the acceptance and use of structuring methods in complex decision-making processes were examined. Apparently the use of methods represents an independent meta-decision which takes place on the individual as well as on the group level. The effects of barriers to determination and/or capability become again particularly evident in the initiative for the use of methods (Karger 1987).

Success of Control

In sum total, it can be said that there are hardly any studies and empirically founded findings on the efficacy of control. This may be due to the fact that, to a high degree, research on organization and decision making of the type in question is to be process research. The analysis of complex processes is, however, methods- and labor-intensive. Consequently, the studies published in this field ought to be even more stimulating (Witte no year, 1973, 1988, Grun 1973, Bronner 1973, 1982, Joost 1977, Geissler 1986, Greinke 1986, Roters 1989).

Perspectives and Benefits of Research

Freeing oneself from individual and isolated thematic and methodic issues after this brief survey of decision-making behavior, problem areas of future research become clearly discernible. For, economic empirical research, especially in the fields of organization and decision-making theory, is confronted with two difficult, yet also challenging requirements: real-scientific standards and interdisciplinary foundation. From this major impulses and shifts may ensue in terms of emphasis in the future research concept of our field.

Business administration in general and organization and decision-making research in particular are subject to a high, partly self-imposed pressure of application. That means that business administration is confronted with a multitude of practical issues, that approaches and results are viewed critically, and that scientific documentation is rigidly evaluated.

Developing and observing real-scientific standards at first requires an adequate awareness of the relevance of questions particulary worth analyzing. Criteria for such a (self-) critical examination may be

-- "important", to distinguish pressing issues from voguish ones;

-- "able to form a field of concentration", to promote the accumulation of scientific efforts;

-- "beneficial", to enable the identification of those interested and affected as well as of potentials of benefit and damage.

Moreover, there is a need for further professional development of the methodic instruments of empirical research. In detail, this would mean

-- complete documentation and assessment of the respective research procedure;

-- deliberate improvement of methods by means of procedure-technical basic research of alternative operationalization, measurement and evaluation;

-- systematic comparison and targeted combination of research methods.

Finally, as in other fields where real-scientific research is done, experimental research should be intensified. At least two considerably different arguments are worth to be considered.

-- For a variety of reasons field studies increasingly meet "market saturation". Consequently, such studies become increasingly difficult and, in particular, methodically insecure.

-- More important, however, is the need for analyses of causal correlations. In case of doubt, correlations should be identified that are less rich in variables but more secure in scientific verification. This does, in no way, exclude gradual expansion but rather systematically provides for it.

The development and maintenance of an interdisciplinary foundation is a multi-layered task and, therefore, not simple. From the multitude of arguments that speak for enhanced efforts only some are to be mentioned.

-- Varying perspectives and approaches may lead to an enrichment of the stock of theories as well as to a broadening of the reach of such theories.

-- A systematic comparison of methods would require that especially in large empirical projects, work is "excessively methodic". This would result in the parallel testing of alternative operationalization, the use of varying data collection and measuring techniques, and the application of varying evaluation procedures.

-- In lab research standardizing experimental scenarios and intervention would be worth considering. Yet, this should by no means constitute a restriction, to a definite catalog of experiment designs. On the contrary, based upon a system of validation criteria yet to be established, it ought to be possible to indicate to which degree the experimental design meets these criteria. In this way, the comparision of results, the exchange and transfer of results would be facilitated.


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Author:Bronner, Rolf
Publication:Management International Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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