Do You Take Decisions And Do You Own Up To Them - Chemical Engineering Perspective
26 September 2010
I do not claim to have knowledge of the subject of human psychology, but working 25 years in the chemical process industry I have seen two kinds of engineers and managers both in the operations and engineering side. The first kind who take decisions and own up to them, and which I try to emulate but not always successfully, and the second kind who avoid making firm decisions and are reluctant to own up any decision they make.
I have a firm belief that a lot of the sense of decision making and ownership of the decision gets embedded as a child. What it means is, how was the person's upbringing and the kind of society and surroundings the person has lived in. Parental discipline on a child is good but only up to the point where it does not stifle the childs decision making. The society where the person lives also makes a difference in shaping up the person's decision making capability.
Some societies and cultures demands a very rigid code of living life. In a way this discipline is good that it keeps human behaviour in check and prevents chaos. But in another way it is repressive also, since it stifles creativity and decision making.
One's economic situation can also influence the willingness to make firm decisions. If you're worried that you may not be able to find a new job if released from your current employment, then you may be less likely to make a firm decision with large consequences for your company.
But despite all the dangers and pitfalls of a wrong decision, decisions still need to be made. Being undecisive or shifting the responsibility to take the decision on somebody else is even worse than making a wrong decision. I firmly believe that if out of 10 decisions I need to make, I get 8 of them to be right than I have done a fairly good job. This is an 80% success rate. Learning from the wrong decisions I make, is something that makes me a responsible human being and a good manager.
Another aspect of decision making is the qualification of the person to make that particular decision. In this era of cost cutting and tight fiscal measures the engineering field has suffered a lot. Specialists are being replaced by generalists, the so called "Jack-of-All-Master-of-None" types. A lot of crucial engineering related decisions need to be made by highly paid specialists who have toiled for years to achieve that level of specailization. Specailist knowledge is required for special purposes which may not be required all the time. Specailists are not supposed to do mundane and regular jobs but need to concentrate on further honing their skills in their specialist field. A lot of good engineering companies maintain a healthy roster of specialists even today, but as mentioned earlier the cost-cutting has led to a steady decline of specialists the world over.
Decisions to be made by specialists are being thrust upon the "Jack-of-all" types. This is a dangerous trend. People not qualified to take decisions are being asked to take them. The chances that the wrong decision will be taken become very high under such circumstances.
To conclude, decision making has to be done, by the right person and at the right time. Don't relinquish your responsibilities of decision making and do not thrust your decision making responsibility on others.
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