Leadership of risk decision making in a complex, technology organization: The deliberative decision making model

by Flaming, Susan C., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2007, 284 pages; 3283782


The continuing saga of satellite technology development is as much a story of successful risk management as of innovative engineering. How do program leaders on complex, technology projects manage high stakes risks that threaten business success and satellite performance? This grounded theory study of risk decision making portrays decision leadership practices at one communication satellite company. Integrated product team (IPT) leaders of multi-million dollar programs were interviewed and observed to develop an extensive description of the leadership skills required to navigate organizational influences and drive challenging risk decisions to closure. Based on the study's findings the researcher proposes a new decision making model, Deliberative Decision Making, to describe the program leaders' cognitive and organizational leadership practices. This Deliberative Model extends the insights of prominent decision making models including the rational (or classical) and the naturalistic and qualifies claims made by bounded rationality theory.

The Deliberative Model describes how leaders proactively engage resources to play a variety of decision leadership roles. The Model incorporates six distinct types of leadership decision activities, undertaken in varying sequence based on the challenges posed by specific risks. Novel features of the Deliberative Decision Model include: an inventory of leadership methods for managing task challenges, potential stakeholder bias and debates; four types of leadership meta-decisions that guide decision processes, and aligned organizational culture. Both supporting and constraining organizational influences were observed as leaders managed major risks, requiring active leadership on the most difficult decisions. Although the company's engineering culture emphasized the importance of data-based decisions, the uncertainties intrinsic to satellite risks required expert engineering judgment to be exercised throughout. An investigation into the co-variation of decision methods with uncertainty suggests that perceived risk severity may serve as a robust indicator for choices about decision practices. The Deliberative Decision processes incorporate multiple organizational and cultural controls as cross-checks to mitigate potential parochial bias of individuals, stakeholder groups, or leaders. Overall the Deliberative Decision framework describes how expert leadership practices, supportive organizational systems along with aligned cultural values and behavioral norms help leaders drive high stakes risk decisions to closure in this complex, advanced-technology setting.

AdviserRena Palloff
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Aerospace engineering; Operations research
Publication Number3283782

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